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Peoria abortion rights supporters demonstrate in wake of leaked SCOTUS draft opinion

Noah Palm and he is the co-chair of the Peoria's Democratic Socialists of America branch, speaks at an abortion rights rally at Main and University on Peoria's West Bluff on Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Brady Johnson
Noah Palm and he is the co-chair of the Peoria's Democratic Socialists of America branch, speaks at an abortion rights rally at Main and University on Peoria's West Bluff on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

“Pro-life is a lie, they don’t care if women die,” was one of many
chants vocalized by a large crowd Saturday, May 7, outside the recently unionzed Starbucks in Campustown.

Last week, a leaked draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stated the 1973 Roe v. Wade's decision, cementing half a century of protection for women’s reproductive rights, is unconstitutional.

The pending case involving the Mississippi Health Department against Jackson’s Health Organization will allow abortion restrictions in twenty-six states. A recently passed draft out of committee in Louisiana would criminalize abortion as homicide if made law.

Nakota Facker is one of the organizers and a member of Peoria’s Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Socialist Alternative and Communist Party USA also helped organize the protest. Facker is graduating from Illinois Central College this month and will be seeking work as a nurse this summer.

“As a healthcare worker I understand how vitally important it is to protect abortion access in the country, especially for low income and marginalized people.” Nakota said in an interview with WCBU. “It is absolutely enraging that pseudo-science and religious vitriol fuel debates about abortion and reproductive access – but these conversations are almost never based in science; based on religious views and disinformation.”

Facker doesn’t want senators to tweet or release passionate statements on the issue. She wants action.

“Put their money where their mouth is and stop using the fragility and vulnerability of Roe as a way to coerce voters into voting for them with no real action.”

Clare Howard and Catherine Gustafson have lived through decades of Roe being the law of the land and were not surprised at the leak.

“Expected, and it will backfire on them,” Howard said. “Women are not moving backwards. Abortion is a basic human right.”

She says Sen. Schumer, majority leader, must put the law codifying abortion access to a vote this week and record those who oppose women’s rights.

“We are not stopping. We will explore every form of protest and lobbying to start pouring money into abortion funds to help women who are marginalized.”

Nicolas Schemel, member of the Socialist Alternative, states a recent poll where nearly 70% of the country supports maintaining Roe as the law of the land.

“It’s been around fifty years and the Democrats have done nothing to codify it. We need to stop putting pressure on them and start putting pressure on a mass movement on the ground. In Peoria that means strikes, student walkouts. That means continued pressure until our demands are met.” Schemel said.

“Stop looking at Twitter and get out on the streets; it’s not about what they’re saying, but about what they’re doing.”

Abortion rights protestors demonstrate at the corner of Main and University on Peoria's West Bluff on Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Brady Johnson
Abortion rights protestors demonstrate at the corner of Main and University on Peoria's West Bluff on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Noah Palm, co-chair of the DSA, says peoples’ support for reproductive rights is large enough to make a difference in mobilizing..

“If they were in unions and able to go on a general strike we could completely shut down the economy and force Congress on our beliefs. That’s what democracy is, literally what do the people want, that’s how we win,” Palm said in an interview with WCBU.

Bradley University senior Lily Pieper says she wants to get more involved to help marginalized women in surrounding states who will be affected in the coming months.

“As a person with a uterus I was born with a right to make choices with my body and now I’m graduating college in just a week and I’m going to lose that right, federally at least,” Pieper said. “I think that travel and the future of where I want to live, the jobs I’ve been applying to…now that I’m graduating has all changed.”

Pieper mentions friends committing to education in other states, which are now looking to backtrack reproductive health.

Back in 2019 Illinois passed the Reproductive Health Act, which dropped restrictions as well as penalties against doctors performing abortions, which because of legal disputes was never enforced. In 2021, the state repealed the Parental Notification Act, which had made minors seeking abortion responsible to notify their guardians.

“I want you to know what it was really like,” Susan, an attendee at the protest said in her speech to the crowd.

Susan graduated high school in 1971 engaged to be married. “When I was in high school, girls went away to their aunts when they got pregnant. When I was in high school, you did not get pregnant outside of marriage. When I was in high school, businesses would not hire you if you were pregnant and married; let alone pregnant and not married.”

Within half a year Susan was pregnant and her fiance decided he didn’t want to get married anymore. Fortunately for Susan, she had saved money for moving, instead she booked a flight to New York City to get an abortion. Illinois was not one of the few states which protected legal abortion before Roe, and finding an appointment was difficult.

The only available day was Christmas Eve, so Susan and her ex-fiance flew to NYC without any of her family members knowing.

“For me, I flew back home and the ex-fiance and I went to Christmas celebrations late that night and pretended we never left the state and I wasn’t bleeding.”

Susan says at the time contraceptives were only allowed for married women.

“Part of the issue is that women still don’t make as much as men on average. So here they are with a baby they know they can’t really afford, they don’t want to give up. They may not be getting money from the father and they don’t make equal pay. So many conservatives force them to have a baby, but there is nobody around and they don’t want to have social systems in place to help those women. “

Gustafson, who turned 80 last Sunday, has this to say to anyone debating abortion: “I want everyone to remember that it’s the men that inseminate.”

Corrected: May 8, 2022 at 7:37 PM CDT
Nakota Facker is graduating from Illinois Central College, not Bradley University.
Brady started as WCBU's Audio Operations Coordinator in 2022. Brady is a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.