Chicago’s March for Life attracts anti-abortion supporters, counter-protesters and white nationalists

Editor’s Note: In this article, sources refer to abortions as pertaining to women. The Chronicle acknowledges that abortion is applicable to all people, regardless of gender identity.


Anti-abortion advocates, white nationalists and abortion-rights counter-protesters were divided by nothing more than an intersection during the March for Life Chicago in Daley Plaza, an annual event that organizers have called the largest pro-life event in the Midwest.

Police said the event attracted at least 1,000 anti-abortion protesters, according to Chicago Tribune, which added that an event organizer said that as many as 9,000 people participated.

Following the Jan. 11 march in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., organized by weDignify, an organization that works to create anti-abortion groups on college campuses, the first March for Life Chicago Convention was held at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave. The convention featured a youth rally, 20 exhibitors, a Catholic mass, a banquet with various anti-abortion speakers and swing dancing, according to its website.

Justin Anderson
The March for Life Chicago meets in Daley Plaza for a rally before a march toward the Congress Plaza Hotel, Saturday, Jan. 11.

The abortion-rights counter-protest was organized by Chicago for Abortion Rights and several other organizations, including Refuse Fascism, an organization calling for the removal of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Patriot Front, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center identified as a white nationalist hate group based in Texas, also participated in the march. The organization’s founder, Thomas Rousseau, is the same nationalist who led Vanguard America members in the Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstration that resulted in activist Heather Heyer’s death, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“To be pro-life is also to be pro-woman,” said Dawn Fitzpatrick, president of March for Life Chicago. “To empower women to choose life is why we’re here.”

Since Chicago’s last March for Life on Jan. 13, 2019, abortion-rights advocates gained a major win when Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed into law the Reproductive Health Act on June 12. This legislation makes abortion a fundamental right and grants autonomous decisions covered by insurance in the state of Illinois.

Ashlyn Myers, an anti-abortion advocate who attended the march, sees the Reproductive Health Act as unconstitutional and unhelpful to women.

“It’s not fighting for those women who really need to be supported,” Myers said.

While skeptical of the legislation’s longevity, Jan Collins, an abortion-rights member of Refuse Fascism, supports the Illinois law.

“Any time women are afforded the right to have a safe and legal abortion, I’m 100% for it,” Collins said.

Collins said the overturning of the landmark case legalizing the right to an abortion, Roe v. Wade, is “very likely” given the current makeup of U.S. Supreme Court

“We should be vigilant; we should do everything we can to save the right to abortion,” Collins said.

On the opposing side, Myers said the overturn of Roe v. Wade would be beneficial to “all people,” and that the culture around abortion could change if people begin looking at it through an anti-abortion lens.

“The pro-choicers and people who don’t agree with pro-life are going to be very outraged,” Myers said. “But our country will adapt and evolve to support all those women.”

Chicago’s next March for Life is set for Jan. 16, 2021.