‘I hope people get as scared as I am’: Thousands gather, march in Chicago supporting abortion rights

Carly Mostar started marching for abortion rights almost 20 years ago and though she said she’ll keep showing up when needed, she finds it hard to believe that giving a woman a choice still needs to be fought for.

Mostar was one of about 1,000 people representing many different communities gathered in Union Park in West Town Saturday morning under the beaming sun to support the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

The Rally for Abortion Justice, part of a nationwide Bans Off Our Bodies Day of Action, began at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St., about 9:30 a.m.

Chanting: “Abortion is health care, abortion is a right,” “My body my choice,” and “Let us choose,” the supporters began walking east on Washington Boulevard about 11:30 a.m. before making their way to the city’s Loop neighborhood, at Wacker Drive and LaSalle Street about an hour later.

Saturday’s outpourings join a wave of pro-choice rights protests washing over the country presently in light of a leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling that previewed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case for abortion rights.

Mostar marched alongside her husband, Nick Rummler, while holding her 14-month-old son Ellis Mostar Rummler in a front baby carrier. Rummler said he was marching to “support everyone who supports access to abortion.”

“It’s about visibility, and maybe someone learns a little bit more about it,” Rummler said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand it fully or understand what Roe is or understand what’s happening right now. I want people to learn.”

Mostar said she was “really sad” thinking of all the people who have been fighting for pro-choice longer than she has while also looking around at the other children in the crowd struggling with the fact that “we haven’t done this for them yet.”

Mostar and her family have lived in the city for about 10 years.

“I’ve always really cared about abortion rights but especially after having a pregnancy and a kid, it is the hardest thing ever in so many ways, and if it’s forced on people,” Mostar said.

The only way to progress, Mostar said, is to “frame the conversation around the right things,” like hearing from people with lived experiences with a pregnancy and abortion and understanding the implications of what the Supreme Court overturn could be.

“I hope people get as scared as I am and do whatever they can from wherever they can,” Mostar said. “I hope it scares people.”

As they marched through the streets, Chicago police officers followed in cars and on foot after diverting traffic from their path. Chicago Fire Department emergency crews also were on hand. Though chaotic, the event was peaceful and organizers appeared to be working with police. No arrests were reported.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was in attendance at Union Park and said to the crowd as a Black woman and mother of four daughters, she has spent her life fighting “to have more rights, not fewer.”

“I am devastated by what overturning Roe v. Wade would mean for bodily autonomy and human rights all across this country,” Stratton said. “I am angered by the effort to turn back the clock, treating us like second-class citizens, being told that our bodies are not our own.”

Stratton said Saturday’s rally was not just about abortion justice but also racial and economic justice.

“Because in this country, we should not be criminalizing health care,” she said. “We should be expanding access to health care. And because we all know that if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, that it’s those from our most marginalized communities that will bear the brunt of this decision.”

As Mostar walked with her son and her husband she felt a glimmer of hope seeing the large number of people showing up to protest in Chicago and thinking about the millions more around the country.

“I mean you come out and you walk with your feet so you can feel not alone and so other people can feel not alone,” she said. “I think there’s been too much complacency, so when I say I hope people get scared, I do also hope they feel hopeful. I think you need a little bit of fear to also think that something’s poss

Another demonstration was underway later in Chicago’s Millenium Park.

Jay Becker and other organizers with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, passed out stickers that read “Abortion on demand and without apology” to pro-choice supporters around 3:30 p.m. on the northwest corner of the park.

Becker said police estimated about 2,000 people attended that rally and march, which started at 1 p.m.

By 4 p.m., most had left the park, leaving a couple hundred chanting and holding up signs or talking about future actions and protests.

Some remaining attendees, who stood against a barrier facing Michigan Avenue, argued with a handful of anti-abortion protesters, debating topics ranging from what a baby is and whether or not abortion is healthcare.

Rachel Muchmore and her two daughters ages 10 and 13 spent a few hours Friday night and Saturday morning making posters for the Millennium Park rally.

On Saturday, they rode the Metra and then the CTA from Evanston to Chicago. The 13-year-old said attending the march was really important to them.

Muchmore said she grew up in a small, conservative city in Florida where she was taught abortion was wrong. As she got older, she questioned some of those teachings, and started to become more empathetic and think more critically about many other realities people experience, she said.

Muchmore said she’s very open with her daughters about the diversity of the world.

Those questions she started asking herself when her worldview started to change are the same questions she asks counter-protesters.

“Maybe it won’t make a difference but if I can at least plant a seed in somebody’s ear,” she said.

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