SEP 19, 2022
‘Elections matter:’ VP Harris joins Pritzker, other officials in Chicago to discuss abortion rights
From left to right, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Gov. JB Pritzker meet with abortion providers and University of Illinois Chicago students at a round table at the University of Illinois Chicago Friday. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line]
A day after Indiana officially banned abortion, adding to the strain Illinois abortion providers were already feeling from an influx of out-of-state patients, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Chicago Friday to shine a spotlight on Illinois’ position as one of the only abortion providers in the Midwest.
Harris was joined by Gov. JB Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and other officials from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as well as students from the University of Illinois Chicago to hear how abortion bans around the country are impacting the state.
“We know that this an opportunity to build coalition around all people who are directly affected or who care about those who are affected,” Harris said.
With less than two months before Election Day on Nov. 8 and less than two weeks before voters can begin casting their ballots on Sept. 29, the election and how it could act as a referendum on abortion loomed over Friday’s meeting.
“Elections matter. We have a midterm coming up in 53 days. Who is your governor matters… I encourage everyone to exercise your right to express your voice on this issue through your vote in 53 days,” Harris said.
Illinois officials and advocates told Harris about the role Illinois has taken on as the closest state with abortion providers for many people around the country. Patients from 28 states have traveled to Illinois since the end of June when Roe v. Wade was overturned, Planned Parenthood Illinois CEO Jennifer Welch said.
Even though abortions laws have changed throughout the country, Pritzker doesn’t view abortion as a debatable practice in Illinois.
“In Illinois, the right to choose is not political,” Pritzker said. “It’s a matter of settled law.”
Despite Pritzker’s declaration, roundtable attendees were mindful that abortion laws could change in Illinois if Republicans found themselves in positions of power.
“We agree with you, madam vice president, that conservative attacks on our bodies go much further than the rights that we are already losing,” Welch said.
Harris also made a plea to those who use their faith as a basis for supporting restrictions on abortions.
“The government should not be making that decision for her,” Harris said. “And it bears noting one does not have to give up their faith or religious belief to agree that the government should not be making that decision for them.”
Lightfoot told Harris about the steps her administration and Chicago City Council has taken this summer to shore up abortion protections and access in the city. Lightfoot’s administration has put $500,000 toward ensuring safe access to abortion in the city.
Lightfoot has also banned the Chicago Police Department from investigating women traveling into the city for an abortion. The southern part of Chicago shares a border with Indiana. Lightfoot told Harris states considering criminalizing traveling for abortion remind her of “fugitive slave laws” that allowed slaves to be pursued even after escaping southern slave states.
Lightfoot said she is hoping the City Council will support her budget that “will expand our financial commitment to make sure every single woman… has the resources they need.”
Additionally, a key City Council committee earlier this month approved a measure that would further protect people who come to Chicago from outside of Illinois for abortion and gender-affirming care. The measure goes to the full City Council for a final vote on Wednesday.
Related: Key committee approves measure that would protect out-of-state people seeking abortion, gender-affirming care
Harris also referenced executive orders signed by President Joe Biden aimed at preserving access to abortion and ease of travel for women who want to travel to states like Illinois to receive an abortion.
“But also, it is through the leadership of governors like Gov. Pritzker that we look to for what states like Illinois… continue to do to not only provide for the women of this state, but as the governor has said, and he and I have talked about this, under his leadership, to be a safe haven for women around the state and in surrounding states,” Harris said.
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