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As Supreme Court Session Starts, Broad Coalition Demands “No Abortion Bans: Not Now, Not Ever!”

Chicago NOW’s President, Gina Rozman-Wendle, MC-ed a press conference organized by Chicago for Abortion Rights on September 27.  CFAR specifically picked this date, the day the Supreme Court kicked off its fall term, to rally the troops for an upcoming march in defense of abortion access that will take place on October 2 at Daley Plaza. The speakers at the conference represented a wide coalition of reproductive rights activists who delivered the message “No Abortion Bans: Not Now, Not Ever.”  Below is the text of Gina’s opening statement that kicked off the press conference.

Good afternoon, everyone.  I am Gina Rozman-Wendle, President of the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and representative of Chicago for Abortion Rights.  My pronouns are she/her. Thank you all so much for coming today.

 

I am proud to represent Chicago NOW, an organization that has been fighting alongside members of this coalition since 1967 to make abortion safe and legal.  But as glad as I am to see this amazing coalition here today, I honestly wish we weren’t here right now.  I am angry that we are facing the concrete possibility that, in the immediate future, birthing people could have fewer reproductive rights than we did when I was born thirty-five years ago.

 

We are here today, on the first day of the Supreme Court’s new term, to firmly tell the court to uphold Roe v. Wade. Extreme factions of this country are attacking our basic rights: the right to control our bodies, our right to vote, to make a living, and to have equal access to health care.  These are rights we all supposedly have, but, based on color, sex, age, and socioeconomic status, often can’t exercise in reality.  Extremists march with signs that say “my body, my choice” when it comes to Covid vaccine mandates, but take no issue with laws that dictate our choice whether or not to bear a child, a choice that Ruth Bader Ginsberg once described as “central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity… When the government controls that decision for [people], they treat us as less than fully adult humans responsible for our own choices.

 

With every hard-earned civil rights victory, there’s been an immediate response that counters our societal progression to justice.  Ever since the Court first decided Roe v. Wade, extremists have chipped away at the right to reproductive autonomy, and the Court has let them do it.  The Court has upheld medically unsound, discriminatory laws that are only imposed on abortions, not other medical procedures.  Meanwhile, anti-choicers who’ve been plotting against reproductive rights for years have already won a huge victory – anti-abortion judges in all levels of our judiciary, all the way up to the Supreme Court.  We’re here today to tell those who think they won – those who seek to push us back into the Dark Ages – WE CANNOT GO BACK.  WE WON’T GO BACK.

 

Today, we demand that the Court respect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support the right to abortion, and the nearly one-quarter of Americans who will have an abortion by age 45. The Supreme Court has already ignored the will of the people by choosing to hear arguments around the super-restrictive Mississippi Gestational Age Act on December 1st, and by refusing to stay the bounty-hunter Texas abortion ban, SB8. These unconstitutional laws don’t just affect citizens of those states – they are extreme attacks on everyone’s health and human rights that especially impact women, people of color, people of low incomes, and other marginalized groups.

 

If not stopped, these laws will spread. A Florida legislator recently introduced a six-week abortion ban so Florida can join Texas in putting bounties on the head of people exercising their fundamental rights. These radical laws show that anti-abortion zealots will stop at nothing, and will use any disingenuous argument or tactic at their disposal, to forcefully impose their will on others.  We have seen this right here in Chicago, supposedly a safe haven for reproductive rights – a blue city in a blue state. But, next to me here, are pictures of physical attacks on Chicago reproductive care clinics that happened just last month.  These attacks are part of a long-existing, but recently escalating pattern of harassment and lethal violence against abortion providers and staff in this country.

The Supreme Court has the power to stop giving credence to these abortion bans and the host of medically unsound state laws that have preceded them.  This broad coalition of women’s and reproductive rights advocates demands that the Court have the courage to stand up to the violent throngs that seek to force us back to a time where women would die in botched, unsafe abortion procedures. If Roe is overturned and Congress does not do the right thing in passing the Women’s Health Protection Act to make clear that abortion is a fundamental right all across this land, we know that the rich and powerful will publically celebrate – but they will still be able to access abortions in private. The ones who will suffer most are the very young, people of color, and people of limited means. People who are systemically oppressed by the ones in power – their lives are on the line.    That’s why, here in Illinois, we must also repeal the dangerous and onerous Parental Notification of Abortion Act. We must respect the bodily autonomy of young people and support their right to make their own decisions about their futures.   I encourage you all to contact your federal and state legislators and demand that they support the WHPA and support repealing PNA here in Illinois.

Those who oppose reproductive rights are often the same hateful forces who repeatedly attack the rights of LGBTQ people, the rights of young people, Black and Brown people, immigrants and refugees. If the Supreme Court upholds the draconian Texas and Mississippi laws and others of their like, they will embolden extremist forces of hate to expand their attacks on civil rights beyond fundamental reproductive rights.  Already, zealots are out there saying that if we can overturn Roe, we can surely overturn the seminal Court cases that legalized same sex marriage.  Only at our collective peril do we ignore the attacks on the right to abortion.

 

Today’s speakers represent a wide swath of activists, many on the front lines of assuring that abortion access continues in Texas, and everywhere else.  We are also proud to have representatives from unions representing thousands across Chicago and Illinois, and students whose futures are on the line.  Our hard-earned civil rights come from the hard work of the organized and mobilized people who fought for those rights – people like our speakers here today. The past has showed us that we cannot rely on any one politician or elected body to protect us – not even the Supreme Court, a body that is supposed to be neutral and divorced from politics, but that has become polarized and nakedly political.  We must rely on the collective power of the people to hold these institutions to task. Therefore, we ask you to mobilize and join the protests that will be occurring around the nation on Saturday, October 2. Here in Chicago, the united Rally for Reproductive Justice and March to Defend Abortion Access will be at 11:30 am Saturday at Daley Plaza. We urgently encourage everyone to attend and declare in one voice “no abortion bans – not now. Not ever.”

 

Chicago NOW Board of Directors Statement Regarding Upcoming National Officer Elections

The Chicago National Organization for Women (NOW) Board of Directors endorses Christian F. Nunes for President and Bear Atwood for Vice President in the upcoming national NOW officer elections. However, this endorsement is not made without reservation. Despite multiple demands, the Chicago NOW board has not received critical information about recent allegations of racism made at the national level, and the national board’s “confidential” internal investigation that was conducted in response.

In June 2020, disturbing allegations came to light about a pattern of racism pervading the ranks of NOW, including painful anecdotes of racism experienced by staffers working with the national board. As a result of these allegations, the national board announced that they had conducted an internal investigation that had revealed that the allegations were unfounded. No further information was provided to local NOW chapters or NOW members regarding the investigation or its results.

At that time, the Chicago NOW board released a statement demanding transparent and concrete answers from former President Van Pelt, along with a comprehensive and neutral investigation into all allegations of racism at the national level. We called on the national board to stand up and declare that our entire organization is committed to antiracism. We asked the board to confirm that NOW understands that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional. We insisted the board affirm that they take allegations of racism from women of color seriously, and that they would not allow any racism to persist in our community.

Having received no direct responses to our demands, the Chicago NOW board recently asked both presidential and vice presidential slates for the upcoming national election—Christian F. Nunes and Bear Atwood, and Gay Bruhn and Beth Corbin—to explain how they would address these outstanding issues. While neither slate provided clarity about the racism allegations or subsequent investigation, both slates acknowledged our frustration and agreed that local chapters deserved more information about the situation. Both slates also stated they were bound by confidentiality from providing such details.

Despite our concerns about transparency, the Chicago NOW board endorses the Forward Together NOW ticket of Christian F. Nunes for President and Bear Atwood for Vice President. We feel this ticket is better suited to make NOW a more intersectional and progressive feminist organization and lead us into the future. This is based in part on past behavior from Gay Bruhn that we believe disqualifies her as a candidate for national NOW office. Last summer, a group of Chicago NOW board members attended an Illinois NOW board meeting to discuss our concerns over the aforementioned racism allegations. Bruhn’s lack of professionalism and aggressive conduct during that meeting raised significant concerns about her leadership. When members of the Chicago NOW board expressed opinions that the national NOW board needs to be inclusive of younger members’ voices, Bruhn became highly defensive and aggressive, and raised her voice multiple times. While muted, Bruhn could be seen yelling and waving her arms and fists while others were speaking. At one point, when one of our board members was talking, Bruhn made an obscene gesture at her. Additionally, Bruhn made several comments condescendingly referring to younger members as having been “children in the swimming pool” while she was hard at work advocating with NOW.

The Chicago NOW board addressed Bruhn’s conduct with the Illinois NOW board president, and the former Chicago NOW president also addressed it with Bruhn personally—yet to this day, Bruhn has not apologized for her behavior. In the past several weeks, the Chicago NOW board asked Bruhn to explain how she would guarantee the same commitment to intersectionalism as the incumbent, especially in light of her behavior last summer. Bruhn stated that she would not apologize for being passionate, and she continued to insist that no institutional racism had been found at NOW. The Chicago NOW board feels these responses are both unprofessional and unacceptable.

We are grateful for the tremendous amount of hard work that both Gay Bruhn and Beth Corbin have devoted to NOW over the years. Regardless of the election outcome, we hope we can work with them in the future to make NOW a more intersectional and progressive feminist organization.

Admittedly, the Chicago NOW board has several concerns with Nunes and Atwood’s candidacy. For example, under their leadership, many states and chapters are not receiving their rebates, creating financial chaos. To help solve this, the Chicago NOW board fully endorses the bylaw amendment proposed by Illinois NOW that allows new members to pay dues to either national, state, or local chapters, which would be responsible for forwarding national, state, and chapter portions (rebates) to the appropriate units.

However, we are encouraged by the steps Nunes and Atwood have taken to make NOW an antiracist organization, including the programming they implemented through their 100 Days of a Feminist Agenda listening series, which centered and uplifted the voices of women of color and indigenous women on NOW’s core issues. We also approve of their future plans to analyze NOW’s bylaws, policies, and employee handbook to identify structural barriers to diversity and inclusion. However, if Nunes and Atwood are elected, we plan to be good citizens and hold them accountable to our grassroots membership, and ask that they take all possible action to modernize our infrastructure and keep the organization running smoothly. We reiterate our call for updated bylaws that let local chapters have a say in the event national leadership falls short, and we remain concerned that too much of our organization’s power is centered upon hierarchical systems that allow for the concentration of decision-making power at the national and state levels.

No matter which candidate slate is elected this year, Chicago NOW calls on our national leadership to hold themselves accountable for the wrongs of the past, and affirmatively explain how they will work to build a better future—one that fights for antiracism, intersectional feminism, and the equal rights of all women and girls.

In solidarity,

Chicago NOW Board of Directors

Top Five Myths About Phone Banking—Busted!

Text: "Get out the vote" with logos of Chicago NOW and Indivisible Chicago

It’s go time. So we’re grabbing our phones and making calls to get out the vote with our friends at Indivisible Chicago every week until November 3. Learn more about our partnership.

We can tell you from personal experience that phone banking is easy and fun. All you need is a phone and a computer or tablet to get started! Phone banking may sound scary—especially since some folks spread misinformation about the difficulty of phone banking in order to suppress the vote. That’s why we are proud to bust these phone banking myths and get you feeling confident and ready to make some calls to voters in pivotal swing states.

Myth 1: Phone banking is ONLY about persuasionas in, “I’ll have to convince someone with extreme views to change their mind on the phone.”

The goal of phone banking is not to find the people posting fake news memes on Facebook and convince them to flip their views in five minutes. Phone banking is about encouraging progressive voter engagement and turnout. It’s the candidates’ job to change hearts and minds—we’re just giving people the extra push they may need to cast their ballots.  

Myth 2: I’m too busy to phone bankwhen will I find the time?

Don’t worry—you can phone bank around your schedule, at your own pace! We’d love for you to join us when we call together, but once you’ve done one phone bank with Indivisible, you can make calls on your own anytime the phones are open ( 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, seven days a week). You can even split it up into smaller chunks. Take 15 minutes and make a dozen calls. Do that four times in a day (or over a few days), and you’ve logged your volunteer time for the week.

Myth 3: People are going to yell at me!

We know it might not seem like it these days, but, turns out, people? They’re generally good at heart! We’ve put in a lot of hours for different campaigns over the years, and we can say with confidence that someone actually taking the time and effort to yell at a stranger on the phone is extremely rare. If someone doesn’t want to talk, they’ll either hang up or won’t pick up the phone at all. Plus, Indivisible’s phone lists are already culled to maximize progressive voter turnout.

Myth 4: I don’t know what to say.

The campaigns that Indivisible partners with always provide clear and easy-to-follow scripts with lots of quick facts about the candidates. Sometimes candidates hop on at the beginning of the phone banks to say a few words about themselves! Most of the time, by the end of an hour or two, you won’t even need your script. But if you freeze up, all you do is look at the script in front of you. And as a bonus, Indivisible stays with you on Zoom to answer any questions you have during your shift.

Myth 5: Phone banking won’t really make a difference, right?

Wrong! Time and again, elections are decided by super slim margins. If we had just turned out a few thousand more voters in swing states in 2016, we’d be looking at a pretty different world right now. Political scientists who’ve studied decades of data have determined that a volunteer phone bank that reaches 1000 people will produce about 28 new voters. If we want to change the course of history, we need every single vote we can get. 

Never phone banked before or haven’t done it yet for 2020? Sign up for Indivisible’s Phone Banking 101, an awesome 45-minute training session that will get you fired up, confident and ready to call.

CNOW will be phone banking once a week until the November 3 election! Head over to our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages for more info. If you can’t make the CNOW phone banks, check out Indivisible Chicago’s website to sign up for phone banks that fit into your schedule!

Let’s GOTV and save democracy!

In solidarity,

Chicago NOW

Image of megaphone plus text "Get Out the Vote" with CNOW & Indivisible Chicago

Get Out The Vote With CNOW and Indivisible Chicago

Chicago NOW is thrilled to announce that we are partnering with Indivisible Chicago to Get Out The Vote (GOTV)!

Who is Indivisible Chicago?

Indivisible Chicago is a progressive, grassroots all-volunteer group of Chicago residents with chapters in neighborhoods all across the city. Throughout the past four years, Indivisible Chicago has led city-wide efforts to resist the regressive Trump agenda. Today, Chicago NOW unites with Indivisible Chicago to mobilize Chicago progressives to help get out the vote for the upcoming general election in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

How can I help?

Indivisible’s campaign is three-pronged: 1) postcard writing, 2) phone banking and 3) text banking. Indivisible will provide you with all the tools you need to start your very own progressive campaign headquarters, right from your couch! Join CNOW for one part, two parts, or all three parts of Indivisible’s crucial voter outreach efforts.

Phase 1: Join the Postcard Posse!

Since early 2020, Indivisible has written millions of postcards to progressive voters in Arizona, Kansas, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana and Wisconsin. Now, we need your help to get postcards to voters in other swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to remind them to vote on November 3 and cast their ballots in one of the most pivotal general elections in recent history.

Writing postcards is an easy, free and effective way to increase voter turnout and get new voters to the polls. Plus, there’s no in-person contact required! Here’s how writing with the Postcard Posse works:

  1. Have the cards delivered to your front door or pick them up from a distribution hub.
  2. Follow the instructions that come with the cards—including what message to write.
  3. When you’re done writing, return the cards to your hub via pickup or drop-off.
  4. If you want to also make a monetary donation, buy stamps for your cards or donate online.

Join the CNOW Postcard Posse team and get started writing postcards within a matter of days! Host a virtual postcard party at your next friends or family Zoom hangout. Write some postcards. Have fun. Save democracy.

Phase 2: Phone Banking!

Whether you’ve worked so many campaigns that you have a favorite pair of canvassing shoes, or you’re a rookie desperate to advance progressive causes, CNOW and Indivisible Chicago will make sure you have the support to make an impact. If you’re new to phone banking, Indivisible offers “Phone Banking 101,” a 30-minute, virtual training session. After you’re all trained and fired up, ready to remind voters of their important civic duty, join a virtual phone bank gathering! Each gathering starts with an orientation, during which Indivisible provides you with crucial talking points, and it ends with a group debrief when the calls are done. Your phone bank leaders are always available online to solve problems and answer questions.

CNOW will be sponsoring a virtual phone bank gathering in the coming weeks, but if you’re ready to get started now, sign up here! Without canvassing, phone banking is the most important way we can connect with prospective voters and encourage them to send in their ballots. 

Phase 3: Text Banking!

If you’re like us here at CNOW, you’ve probably received text messages from all kinds of political campaigns and candidates in past election seasons, and wondered to yourself, “Is this a text from a human being, or is this just political Siri or Alexa?” Now, you can be the actual human being on the other end of the text! Just like phone banking, Indivisible has all the tools you need to hop online and start making direct contact with prospective voters in swing states through texting. 

As we get closer to the election, CNOW will begin to sponsor text banking events. If your fingers are just itching to text right now, click to get started.  

Let’s GOTV and save democracy together!

 In solidarity,

Chicago NOW

The Other Pandemic in Chicago: Gun Violence

July 2020 was the deadliest month in Chicago history in the last 28 years, with 105 people killed, mostly by firearms. It ended with the shooting death of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who was playing outside in a parking lot near his Cabrini Green home.

ABC 7 Chicago reports that this marks “a nearly 139% increase from the 44 reported in July 2019.”

The majority of these victims were from Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Gun violence erodes communities and the feeling of safety to walk outside to go to the store, or even be safe in one’s own home. Children should not have to grow up with this level of trauma and fear.

Black Lives Matter, so we must demand accountability and justice to end racist police violence and murder. We must also take the funding that goes to weapons, military equipment, and defending lawsuits for police departments, and instead use it for communities that are in desperate need of social services.

Black Lives Matter, so we must also demand resources for small business development,accessible social and mental health services, and violence intervention organizations that are so needed in many of our Chicago neighborhoods.

Mayor Lightfoot and our city leaders need to hear from us every day. In her 2020 budget, she dedicated $11.5 million to community-based safety efforts in the 15 Chicago neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. This is much less than what  Los Angeles and New York invested in equivalent programs that helped reduce gun violence in those major cities. More needs to be invested in these communities, and especially in violence interruption, which we have seen in Chicago can have tremendous impact. For a spending comparison: the police budget is $1.5 billion.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic crisis we can anticipate further economic hardships for families in underserved communities due to closed businesses, unemployment, and the loss of productive lives. With economic hardship comes increased rates of domestic violence and criminal activity, which are both drivers of gun violence. 

We can expect gun violence to only increase and more deaths in our Chicago community until these two intersectional issues are addressed in an ethical manner with adequate funding.

Get Involved

Chicago NOW is supporting the efforts of the youth leaders of March for the Hood on August 15th. They are collecting school supplies and menstrual supplies for kids in the underserved south side neighborhoods. 

To donate: https://gf.me/u/yjzgtc

Picture of youth at rally with text, March for the Hood

Here are some other great organizations in Chicago that address this intersection between communities dealing with multiple levels of trauma and gun violence that you can also lend support to as well: