‘This is a call to do my part’: Activists take to city streets to fight abortion restrictions

By Olivia Cohen, News Editor

Protestors march around Cloudgate and down South Michigan Avenue chanting, “No more shame, no more silence, forced motherhood is fascist violence.” K’Von Jackson

Content Warning: The following article discusses the subject of sexual assault, rape, incest and suicide; the Chronicle apologizes for any discomfort this may cause.

A sea of green bandanas, sticker-covered jackets and protest signs reading “abort the patriarchy” and “forced motherhood is female enslavement” flowed through Millennium Park on Saturday in protest of recent waves of legislation criminalizing abortion across the U.S.

The protest, which was led by the organization RiseUp4Abortion, included a speech from El Salvador native Patricia Wallin, who lost one of her best friends to suicide at 15 because they got pregnant. Since then, Wallin has committed herself to fighting for abortion rights.

“It is terrible what is happening [in El Salvador]. … I found these people doing something for abortion rights in the U.S., and now we’ve united because of the same cause,” Wallin said while holding back tears. “What is going on [in El Salvador] is what could happen here if we don’t fight for our rights.”

Signage reading “My Body My Choice” and “Abortion Rights 4 All” were given to protestors to show support for women’s rights. K’Von Jackson

El Salvador is one of the four countries in Latin America that have made abortion illegal in all cases — even under circumstances when the life of the mother is at risk and in instances of rape.

After Wallin, the microphone was passed to Mikey Obozas, the secretary from the Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago, who started his speech with an apology for uterus-bearing individuals.

“On behalf of all white, English-speaking, cisgender males who contradict ourselves about your uterus while we don’t have a uterus at all, I humbly apologize for our rudeness,” Obozas said.

A demonstrator prepares to put on a white sheet with the words “Teenage pregnant 16 year old” to represent women in need of abortions. K’Von Jackson

Obozas quickly pivoted to talk about the importance of abortion accessibility, especially for survivors of sexual assault, rape and incest.

“No matter what side of the issue you are on, survivors of sexual assault are everywhere. We, survivors, are moderates, pro-choice, pro-life, civilians, frontline workers,” Obozas said. “We at Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago are supporting this because many of us understand that at our core.”

Obozas said the Alliance addresses the concerns of rape and incest because they understand it is still the survivor’s body, rights and their own health and well-being.

“And if you are like myself and may be a survivor, we survivors survived because we owe it to ourselves without apology in every language and in every country and every lifetime,” Obozas said.

Performers lie on the ground to symbolize women who died from not having an abortion. K’Von Jackson

Laura Stream, a first-year art, media and design major at DePaul University, thinks there is a sense of apathy in the abortion rights movement.

“It’s almost like the women’s movement has kind of accepted the fate of what is going to happen,” Stream said in an interview with the Chronicle prior to the protest. “While it is good to accept that some things like that could happen and accept the reality of where we are at … not even coming out into the streets and doing anything causes more harm than good.”

Stream has been an advocate with RiseUp4Abortion and traveled with the organization around Chicago to various protests and rallies since joining the cause. Stream was also asked to give a speech at the weekend demonstration.

The abortion rights protest was met with a counter-protest across the park made up of a handful of protesters and picket signs.

Demonstrators lie on the ground as speakers discuss the issues surrounding access to safe abortions in El Salvador and the U.S. K’Von Jackson

In addition to the speeches made, the protest included a demonstration of four uterus-bearing individuals donning robes with “pregnant at 16” and “jailed for miscarrying” on the front, while having their arms and torsos wrapped in chains, symbolizing the restraint banning abortion could create.

The protest shifted to the streets, as the crowd in green marched through Millennium Park chanting “keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” while walking down State Street, toward the Chicago River.

“To me, this is a call for action. This is a call to do my part,” Wallin said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.