Watch now: Hundreds in downtown Bloomington protest abortion ruling | Policy
BLOOMINGTON – On July 4, Sabrina Cavanaugh helped organize a protest in Bloomington she said showed, “We don’t have our independence.”
On June 24, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion. Cavanaugh said on Monday that the High Court’s ruling deprived many women of the right to control their own bodies, and “we’re pretty unhappy with America right now.”
Abortion rights activists march through downtown Bloomington on Wednesday night
More than 300 people attended Monday’s rally in Withers Park. It was also hosted by McLean County Young Democrat President Krystle Able, who shared with attendees what the term togetherness means to her.
Able referenced the work of bell hooks, a black feminist scholar who articulated the difference between support and solidarity. “Solidarity keeps us in things for the long haul. Solidarity is unconditional. Solidarity is without exception,” Able said. “Support is conditional.”
Able explained that verbal solidarity is helpful, but it does little more than show marginalized communities that you support their struggle. She also said there was reactionary solidarity, which Monday’s protest was – a reaction to negative political developments.
Yet after a protest, people tend to go home, forget themselves, and the movement falters, Able said.
According to her, what young democrats are aiming for is a transformative solidarity: “The type of solidarity that gives us the power to make things change”.
Able said it can be like educating people on how things intersect, surrounding yourself and building long-term relationships with like-minded people and those who share the same struggle with you.
She encouraged people to meet someone new at the event and get to know them and their struggle in this community.
Watch now: Bloomington protesters decry Roe’s decision
Cavanaugh also helped organize a protest on the penultimate Sunday outside Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, and heard from others that they should hold another rally on July 4. She also created a Facebook group, the McLean County Pro-Choice Warriors, which now has hundreds of members.
“I’m glad a lot of other people share the same feelings of being upset and angry and wanting to stand up for pro-choice rights,” Cavanaugh said.
She also advised people who want to make a difference to donate to Planned Parenthood, join an organization and vote in the Nov. 8 general election.
A young participant was June Jones, a 17-year-old student at Normal West High School. She made a protest sign saying that every reason to have an abortion is a good reason.
Jones explained that she doesn’t believe someone should have to suffer abuse just to choose what happens to their body.
“There are so many reasons why someone would need an abortion and every reason is valid,” she said.
Watch now: Abortion rights supporters demonstrate in downtown Bloomington
Another participant was Jackie Schneider, who said she was celebrating our nation’s history. But on Monday, she said, the most important issue of the day was “defending women’s reproductive rights and our rights to privacy.”
Schneider came with Susan Woolen, who noted that the day was also about exercising the constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Woolen added that they are also here to protect their reproductive rights and tell the rest of the country what they think of the Roe v. Wade.
She continued her message to the nation, “And we are also the protectors of reproductive justice.”
Bloomington’s Kristi Scheel was among the speakers, sharing the story of an abortion she had in 1988. She said she became pregnant at an early age and in “a very, very abusive relationship”.
“Abused to the point of almost being shot twice,” said Scheel, who said she was raised by her Catholic grandparents and didn’t think she could ask them for contraception or get financial help for an abortion.
So she went to Planned Parenthood, where she was given a piece of paper with a number on it. She said she called and was sent to a church in Peoria, where she met a nun who paid for part of the procedure.
Scheel recalls being asked why she needed the abortion. “He’s going to kill me. Period,” she replied, referring to the baby’s father. “There’s no getting around it. He’s going to kill me, and he’s absolutely going to hurt this kid.”
Although she said it wasn’t the proudest day of her life – and she mourns the loss of the child every day – Scheel said she doesn’t regret her decision and that she was grateful that abortion was legal and safe. Without it, Scheel said, she likely would have killed herself.
Seeing young girls at the rally, Scheel said she was heartbroken to think they might not have the same choice. She said she hoped the decision could be reversed: “Because I don’t want to see anything happen to you kids,” she said. “And when you’re in that situation, believe me, you’ll do just about anything.”
Another speaker was Janna Alshabah, a sophomore at Bloomington High School, who said she wanted to point out that the overturning of Roe v. Wade wasn’t just about women’s rights. The decision also affects transgender, non-binary and intersex people, she said.
Alshabah, who organized a protest for Palestinian rights in downtown Bloomington earlier this year, said she was sometimes asked why she was protesting at just 16.
“Adults who run my life and our lives around us are making decisions that are going to impact us negatively,” Alshabah said, “and we have to be the change in the world because unfortunately they make it harder for we.”
She noted that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would have a disproportionate negative effect on people of color, “and that’s why we have to fight.”
Alshabah said he observed many white people attending on Monday, adding that “it’s not a bad thing”. But she encouraged them to act as a shield for protesters of color.
“You have to be their shield,” she said.
Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison