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On this day

On this day, Friday, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision to terminate U.S. women’s constitutional right to an abortion. The implications of this decision are far-reaching, affecting pregnant people who reside in the continental U.S., as well as those who live in the global south and use health services funded by U.S. monies. The state of Illinois is among a handful of U.S. states that continues to affirm the right to safe and accessible reproductive healthcare. Indeed, the state has seen growing numbers of persons coming from outside the state in recent years. Those numbers will continue to increase. The University of Illinois Health system is readying itself for this shift in demand. At the same time, we need to hear from the university’s upper administration where they stand on reproductive justice. For example, we need to hear that the university believes that abortion is healthcare and is a human right. Students need to hear that, regardless of their residency status, that they can expect to receive high-quality abortion care from all the university’s health facilities and won’t be penalized for seeking or receiving care. They should also be told that the university continues to offer Title IX protections for pregnancy, abortion, and pregnancy loss. Staff need to hear the same: that they have access to reproductive rights and will not be discriminated against when seeking support, and that regardless of how they feel about abortion, will extend the best quality care to those who are seeking abortion care at UI Health.

That the governor of Illinois affirms abortion as a right occludes a fundamental issue of access that women of color activists in the reproductive justice movement have pointed out for many years. That is, we know that many persons were not able get access to an abortion even under Roe v Wade; the issue was not just about what the Supreme Court said, but what federal laws mandate. The Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal monies to pay for abortion, has been in full force since 1976. Many pregnant persons in Illinois still cannot get abortion care at federally qualified health centers like UI Health’s Mile Square. Abortion funds emerged and exist to address the need for access in terms of transportation, accommodations, and costs of abortion care. As we watch states around us enact forced birthing legislation in the coming days, it is also true that the Hyde Amendment continues to stand in the way of Illinoisans and limits access to reproductive healthcare. As pressure on independent clinics in Illinois increases, and as private institutions like Catholic hospitals have even greater say in who receives abortion care, public institutions like University of Illinois, which serves large numbers of poor women of color, cannot remain silent on the issue.

As the country, state, and university grapple with all the fallout from the Supreme Court decision, please know that WLRC will continue to be a space of reflection, education and activism for the campus community. We will continue to share knowledge about reproductive justice movements, uplift the women and gender nonconforming people who lead the ongoing struggles for bodily autonomy, and keep you informed. We will join in advocating for the university to take the broadest and most inclusive approach to reproductive healthcare, such that people receive care regardless of ability to pay. And we will raise our voices alongside others who are working inside and outside the university to advance reproductive justice where everyone has the choice about whether they want to parent and are able to do so under circumstances of their choosing.

In the meantime—the days ahead will be challenging. For those of us who disagree with the Supreme Court decision, it is important that we process this decision in community and use the opportunity to fortify our connections to each other. There is a lot of rage to go around; I certainly feel my fair share. Finding ways to channel that rage is necessary. Whether that means donating to the Chicago Abortion Fund, volunteering, participating in efforts to build new structures that advance reproductive justice, re-reading old texts, doing creative work, or talking about your own abortion to family and friends, do what you can from where you are. We may have lost a major battle, but we still have each other.

More than ever, take care of yourselves and each other,

Natalie Bennett


(Disclaimer: This statement should not be taken as an official position of the University of Illinois Chicago.)