A message from one of CDSA’s 2018 Bowletariats bowlers & CDSA Socialist Feminism Working Group Co-Chair, Rachel Zibrat:
It surprises many people to learn that there are anti-abortion protesters outside abortion clinics in Chicago. Surely, they say, this can’t be a problem in a huge and notably liberal city. This is a misconception: anti-abortion protesting and activism is alive and well in Chicago.
Patients walking into clinics in Chicago on a given Saturday are subjected to silent prayers, sermons through bullhorns, graphic and bloody signs, unwanted touching from protesters, and everything from medically inaccurate literature to baby socks being thrust into their hands. A Christian private school regularly buses in teenagers from the suburbs to harass patients at one clinic, and patients and escorts alike are routinely filmed and photographed without consent by anti-abortion protesters. Beyond the clinic, the annual March For Life brings thousands of anti-abortion protesters from throughout the Midwest into the heart of the Chicago Loop to hear speakers like Archbishop Blase Cupich and Chicago Bears board member Pat McCaskey.
As a clinic escort, I have been putting my body on the line between protesters and patients for four years, and I have learned a great deal about reproductive justice, healthcare access, and solidarity in that time. I began escorting after reading about one too many laws encroaching on Roe v. Wade. Feeling frustrated and sad, I knew I had to do something tangible, and signed up with the Illinois Choice Action Team clinic escorting program in 2014. I have been transformed by the patients I’ve walked alongside. Some laugh, some are upset, some are alone, some have their partners or children with them. Many drive across the border from Indiana, a state with severely restrictive abortion laws. At its heart, clinic escorting is physical solidarity: acting as a shield against anti-abortion hatred, and affirming a patient’s right to access abortion care regardless of their circumstances.
Rather than simply supporting people who seek abortion care, however, we must work towards reproductive justice for all. Reproductive justice does not mean only fighting for abortion care and bodily autonomy, but also fighting for free healthcare and childcare, living wages, paid parental leave, housing for all, and more. In this sense, the fight for abortion access touches every aspect of our work in the DSA, and is a core responsibility for a truly intersectional, feminist socialist movement.
The Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group’s Bowletariats have been fundraising for the National Network of Abortion Funds’ annual Abortion Bowl-A-Thon. We also planned a night of beer, dancing and reproductive justice on Saturday, April 14. Proceeds go to the Chicago Abortion Fund, which gives financial support to people in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who need help paying for an abortion. Many of the people who pass through the doors of clinics in Chicago are low-income workers and people of color who already have children, and the cost of an abortion can be prohibitive. We cannot have reproductive justice without lifting roadblocks to healthcare access – and abortion is healthcare!