State and local politicians and stakeholders for abortion rights reacted quickly late Monday to news that a draft opinion reportedly had been circulated among justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn abortion rights secured in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker immediately took to Twitter, writing, “Hell no! In Illinois, we trust women. We cannot let their most profound and personal rights be violated.”
Later, Pritzker said, “Let me be clear: this has always been the GOP’s ultimate goal. For a party that claims to be about freedom, Republicans can’t wait to deprive millions of women the right to choose. As long as I’m governor, Illinois will stay a beacon for reproductive freedom. We won’t go back.”
The draft opinion, obtained and published by Politico, reported showed a majority of justices supported reversing the 1973 case earlier this year. The leak of such a document itself would be a rarest of occurrences at the level of the nation’s highest court.
Colleen Connell, the ACLU of Illinois’ executive director called it “extremely rare and extraordinary for a draft Supreme Court decision to be leaked. If this decision is supported by five justices, the Court will permit limits on the ability of millions of Americans to make the most fundamental decisions about their lives — including whether or when to have a child, who to love and who to marry.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, said on Twitter that “this is not final and the far-right Supreme Court majority will not have the last word. The American people will.”
“Tonight, it’s important we get loud, organize and demand action from the Senate,” Duckworth wrote. “Retweet if you agree it’s time to protect Roe v. Wade NOW.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also took to social media to voice her displeasure.
“What we’re seeing tonight on Roe v. Wade is a horrendous attack on our fundamental right to choose, and we will fight against it with everything we’ve got,” Lightfoot tweeted. “You have my word: I will do everything I can to guarantee your right to an abortion.”
Lightfoot extended her comments in a statement, saying Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that “has paved the way for women in need of reproductive care to access safe abortions for decades and importantly, decide for themselves the circumstances under which they chose to bear children. If this draft opinion becomes the law of the land, women and their families will suffer, needlessly.”
Lightfoot goes on to say that the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade “will establish a precedent for gutting the legal underpinnings used to protect against gender-based discrimination overall including women’s rights, trans rights, immigrant rights, and of course, the right to same-sex and interracial marriage.”
“Chicago will continue to be a haven for those seeking access to the full range of safe reproductive care,” Lightfoot said. “We will also continue to fight in Chicago to protect the right to choose and will not stop fighting to protect this right in our surrounding counties and states. Do not let this setback be a lasting defeat. “
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also posted a statement on Twitter, emphasizing how this is especially “devastating … for the low income Black and Brown women who will be disproportionately impacted.”
Amy Gehrke, the executive director of Illinois Right to Life, said she had just learned of the Politico report minutes before receiving a call from a Tribune reporter.
”My initial reaction is that this is absolutely despicable and shows that abortion activists will stop at absolutely nothing to protect Roe v. Wade,” Gehrke said.
“A decision that has been incredibly harmful to women and has led to deaths of 10s of millions of pre-born babies since 1973,” she said. ”I saw it on the news and instantly my phone started blowing up.”
Gehrke also noted the preliminary nature of such a document, wondering how the situation would ultimately play out.
Democratic members of Congress from Chicago and the nearby suburbs blasted a decision as being shortsighted and ignoring women’s rights.
“Let’s be clear — Republicans stole two Supreme Court seats to make this happen. The party of ‘small government’ wants to control women’s bodies,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago wrote on Twitter. “This is utterly shameful but we can stop it. The Senate MUST end the filibuster and codify Roe.”
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson, who is also head of the Illinois Democratic Party, said on Twitter that “the leaked SCOTUS opinion on Roe v Wade will set women’s rights back generations.”
“Black women & those living in rural areas will be worst impacted. We must codify the right to safe abortions,” Kelly added.
U.S. Rep Sean Casten of Downers Grove said voters need to “put pro-choice majorities in the House and Senate this November and we fix this, permanently.”
“Scream tonight. Cry tonight. Get angry tonight,” he wrote on Twitter. “And tomorrow, get to work.”
Casten’s opponent in the Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, said on Twitter: “This is heartbreaking but it sure as hell is not going to stop me from fighting for women’s rights everywhere. We will march. We will vote. We will never stop fighting.”
But first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Oakland, however, praised a ruling knocking down Roe.
“Our Justices need your prayers to stand up to the radical abortion industry and Defend Life!” she wrote on Twitter. “The unborn have no voice to speak for themselves, we march for them and tonight we must pray for them!”
Jesse Sullivan, a cryptocurrency venture capitalist from Petersburg who is running for the GOP nomination for governor, said on Twitter that when he heard the news about the draft ruling, “we dropped to our knees and said a prayer as a family in gratitude for all the lives that will be saved.”
Sullivan also took the opportunity to blast the incumbent Democratic governor and declare that under Pritzker Illinois “will be the abortion destination capital of the Midwest. Making this race a matter of life and death. We must put an end to late-term, partial birth abortions. We must put an end to taxpayer funded abortions. We must bring back parental notification for minors.”
It is believed such a Supreme Court decision would essentially revert the footing of abortion law in the country back to the state level. Many Republican-controlled states already have passed “trigger laws” that would outlaw abortion in the wake of any such high court choice.
In Illinois, state lawmakers in recent years have acted to protect abortion rights and make the procedure more accessible.
In December, Pritkzer signed a measure to repeal a requirement that abortion providers notify the parents of minors seeking the procedure. In 2019, Pritzker signed into law legislation that established the “fundamental right” of women to have an abortion, and stated that a “fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights.”
In signing the 2019 bill, Pritzker said it is a preventive measure that “ensures that women’s rights do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade, or the whims of an increasingly conservative supreme court in Washington.”
Tribune reporter Rick Pearson contributed.