Some who had protested abortion were thrilled that their five-decade effort to overturn Roe v. Wade had won. The right sealed by the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973, by history and precedent was unsealed just as profoundly Friday.
Those who saw the new decision as a fundamental loss of women’s rights to control their own body were devastated. The decision had been foreshadowed ever since the makeup of the court had shifted deeply conservative during the Trump adminsitration.
On the street, there was muted exultation from some and deep heartache from others.
News-Herald reporters Denise Baran-Unland, Bob Okon and Felix Sarver spent the day asking what was on Will County’s mind.
Trista Graves Brown, founder of Speak Up, a community-based grassroots organization
Brown said Friday’s decision will worsen situations for low-income, minority women. She anticipates illegitimacy to rise and further strain social services. She expects more acts of desperation: illegal or self-performed abortions, child abandonment and worse.
She also expects more stigmatization, more reluctance from women to discuss their abortions and more women second-guessing their past abortions while reliving their emotional distress. Brown said the topic often is taboo in Black families, even when one of their own has one.
“They would not talk about it, not even when they came home,” Brown said.
The abortion issue is further complicated by religious groups debating when life occurs, Brown said.
“I always say that a woman’s body is her own, and that we have a choice to make,” Brown said. “It’s our decision, not other people’s decision, to decide what’s right or wrong. It’s between them and their God.”
Suzanna Ibarra, Will County Progressive co-chair and sister-in-law of Maria Elena Ibarra
Ibarra said her “good Catholic values” taught her that God loved everybody and that she would “never tell another woman what she can do and not do with her reproductive organs.”
If a decision made 50 years ago can be overturned, “what is the point of the Supreme Court anyway?” Ibarra said. She said “right-wing, pro-life” people claim the U.S. is filled with programs to care for “unwanted children.” So why, Ibarra asked, are so many kids stuck in the foster care system?
“And we know the plight of kids in foster care,” Ibarra said.
Friday’s decision only makes abortions dangerous again and forces women to birth babies conceived when they were “most violated,” she said.
“Women are raped, molested and incested,” Ibarra said. “Things happen we don’t expect to happen or want to happen or have a choice when it happens. We have a choice to decide if we have a baby or not. Childbirth is when you’re closest and most at risk for death. Abortion is very safe, and a legal abortion is very safe.”
Shawn Marconi, executive director of the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic in Joliet
“I saw that come across the screen and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is going to make it really hard for low-income women,’ ” Marconi said. “That’s who we serve, low-income women who are employed in the lowest wage jobs. And if they don’t have access to reproductive health, then it’s going to make it more challenging for those families economically.”
The Will-Grundy Medical Clinic works closely in partnership with the Will County Community Health Center in Joliet and typically sends its patients there for reproductive health needs, although the clinic has assisted in some cases with contraception, Marconi said.
Still, the clinic may see “an uptick in overall cases,” Marconi said.
“I would say Will County Community Health and the other providers who provide reproductive health are going to be extremely stretched and challenged in the coming years,” Marconi said. “I think Illinois is really going to struggle. Our neighboring states have such strict laws, and we just have to be prepared to provide people services.”
Sherry Sherwood, CEO of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Joliet
The Pregnancy Resource Center offers pregnancy testing, obstetrical ultrasounds, support programs and information about all three of a woman’s options (abortion, adoption and keeping the baby), Sherwood said.
“We have a large variety of women come to us from various circumstances just looking for that listening ear and needing to process through a really big decision; no woman makes this decision lightly,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood anticipates even more women will seek out the Pregnancy Resource Center for help.
“There is an assumption in our nation that those who provide abortions do so because they have the woman’s best interests at heart, and that those who oppose abortions do not,” Sherwood said in a written statement. “It is time to consider the possibility that abortion may be politically and financially motivated rather than a display of mercy.”
“What can I do? What should I do? And how can I be of most help?”
Kuvin, a female leader in her community, a lawyer licensed in Florida and someone who’s worked in social services, is asking herself those questions because her job is “to be a pillar of that freedom” and help “ensure a woman’s right to choose.”
She can’t envision her own teenage daughter not growing up without the same right to choose that Kuvin did, she said.
“It’s something that I think in America we take things for granted, and we’ve become comfortable in our personal challenges that we forget that this was only a very flimsy Supreme Court case. It was never a strong piece of law; it never was,” Kuvin said. “I just hope that Planned Parenthood and other organizations are getting active.”