Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lambasted the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as “a horrible tragedy” and threatened legal tactics against other states who seek to punish those who travel to Illinois to receive abortions.
Speaking at Planned Parenthood Illinois’ offices hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion, the mayor’s fury was just as pronounced as when the court majority’s draft opinion Wade was leaked last month.
But she also sought to reassure Chicagoans that abortion would remain accessible in the city.
“I’m not going to tell you that today feels any less than what it felt then, but the thing I think that time and distance has given us is resolve,” Lightfoot said. “We’re here not only to voice our opposition in our outrage to the Supreme Court’s decision but to reassure our brothers and sisters all across the country that Chicago and Illinois will remain a safe haven for all who value justice in our country.”
Lightfoot also addressed laws under consideration elsewhere that allow for criminal prosecution of those who get or help others get abortions out of state, or allow private citizens to bring lawsuits.
The mayor questioned whether such measures will stand up to court challenges and suggested she might seek to turn the legal tables.
“I’m going to use that same precedent to sue states, like Indiana, like other states that are bringing illegal guns into my city, into my state with reckless abandon and taking lives, so careful what you wish for,” she said.
As anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago celebrated the ruling, the mayor called it the culmination of “a long, demented game that a certain faction in our country has been playing” to hold “power and dominion,” particularly over women and people of color. But she promised the federal right to abortion can be won back and implored people to not lose spirit.
“However you feel today, don’t feel resigned. Feel resolved. Feel resolved to fight and to organize and importantly to vote,” Lightfoot said. “If Hillary Clinton had been the president, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this horrible outcome in our country. If we had stood up and voted in the 2016 election, the horror of Donald Trump that we are still living through would not be something that we have to experience.”
Lightfoot also echoed previous warnings that the latest decision jeopardizes other landmark rulings establishing LGBTQ rights.
“Make no mistake about it: This decision today has much wider, and much larger implications,” Lightfoot said. “That means that we must make sure that we’re organized.”
The state’s Planned Parenthood president, Jennifer Welch, said Friday was a “dark day” and vowed the abortion provider will be prepared for the influx of people that will travel to Illinois.
An additional 20,000 to 30,000 patients are expected to cross state lines each year to seek an abortion here, Planned Parenthood has projected.
”I am furious that the ultra-conservative justices have ignored half a century of settled law as well as the vast majority of Americans who believe that abortion should remain legal,” Welch said. “I want to be clear: abortion is safe and legal in Illinois, and it will remain legal in Illinois.”
Earlier in May, Lightfoot pledged $500,000 in city funds to support abortion access for residents and people from neighboring states in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The money will go toward transportation, lodging, care “and, if necessary, safe and legal access to an abortion procedure,” Lightfoot had said.
The mayor clarified Friday that the $500,000 was merely a “down payment” and implored leaders in Springfield to boost those funds during the upcoming special session called by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. She noted that in addition to supporting increased demand, clinics may require added security.
Illinois’ status as a haven for reproductive health care in the Midwest — where abortion rights are eroding in almost all neighboring states — is expected to be cemented following Friday’s result. Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 signed the Reproductive Health Act, ensconcing the “fundamental right” to terminate a pregnancy in state law.
Across the U.S., about half the states will likely see abortion bans imminently.
Roe was struck down Friday when the Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to uphold the legality of a 2018 Mississippi law that banned abortion past 15 weeks’ gestation. In the absence of the 1973 landmark case that guaranteed the right to terminate a pregnancy, the matter of abortion law falls to the states.
The final opinion from Justice Samuel Alito says that Roe and a 1992 decision that reaffirmed abortion rights, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, were wrong and the Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion because it should be decided by the political branches. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, the latter three being appointees of former President Donald Trump.
Chief Justice John Roberts also voted with the majority but said he would have stopped short of dismantling the right to abortion outright, while liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.