Chicago City Council committee approves ordinance to protect abortion rights

Illinois in general and Chicago in particular are an oasis of freedom surrounded by states that have enacted what activists call ‘extremely anti-abortion’ and anti-gender laws in the wake of the state Supreme Court ruling. United Annulling Roe v. Wade.

On Thursday, Chicago aldermen took a giant step to ensure that some strangers arriving in the city seeking care unavailable in their home state were not further victimized by becoming the target of an investigation.

The Health and Human Relations Committee approved an order defended by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd).

This would prohibit the Chicago Police Department or any other local government agency from cooperating with investigations aimed at criminalizing women who come to Chicago for abortions and other reproductive care. It would also protect the medical providers who treat these patients and those who help them, for example by providing information, transport and accommodation.

Drawing inspiration from the Welcoming Cities Ordinance that made Chicago a “sanctuary city” for undocumented residents, the ordinance also calls for expanding Chicago’s 311 non-emergency line to provide information and resources to people seeking access to abortion and gender-affirming care.

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“I want to thank the immigrant rights movement for giving us the blueprint — for fighting so hard — so that Chicago can be an immigrant-friendly city that we can now use to protect everyone. Everyone who need shelter,” Rodriguez Sanchez told his colleagues.

“It shows how interconnected our struggles are and how responsible our city is to act in solidarity with those most marginalized and impacted by a system that oppresses them.”

Mike Ziri, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, said reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights are “inextricably linked to the right to privacy, bodily autonomy, and the freedom to be ourselves and build our own families without discrimination or criminalization”.

He “believed” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he wrote in his concurring opinion quashing Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court “should reconsider its past rulings protecting contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage,” Ziri said.

But, Ziri added, “Attacks on LGBTQ communities are not next on the agenda. They are already happening.”

“The Texas Attorney General…said he would defend any Texas law that seeks to recriminalize same-sex relationships. Also in Texas, parents of trans youth are being charged…and are being investigated by the Texas government. ‘state on ‘child abuse’ for affirming and supporting their trans children. Just to love their children. And in Florida recently the state government ended Medicaid coverage of gender affirming care for all ages,” Ziri said.

Similarly, Brigid Leahy, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said there has been a “dramatic increase in the number of patients forced to flee” abortion bans in their home countries.

It is expected to increase dramatically — with an “immediate impact” on Chicago — when Indiana’s abortion goes into effect next week, she said.

“Abortion patients from other states are often confused and anxious about the laws here and whether or not they risk lawsuits or civil lawsuits for coming to Illinois for care. This ordinance will ensure that city resources do not are not used to intimidate, harass and further prevent these patients from getting the care they need,” she said.

Alicia Hurtardo of the Chicago Abortion Fund spoke about the pressures faced by out-of-state patients seeking refuge in Chicago.

“A woman traveling from Texas across multiple state lines with her young daughter just to come to Illinois to take pills for her abortion because she could not access care in her home state. A caller has drove five hours to come from Ohio because their appointment was already canceled at home due to the implementation of a six week ban This caller was not confident to make an appointment in Indiana, even if it was closer, just in case another ban is put in place. What we know now is not a wrong assumption to make,” she said.

“We are here to ease this logistical and financial burden on our callers as much as possible. But protection from criminalization is something we rely on our… elected officials to provide.”

In 1985, then-Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws.

He made the decision — setting the stage for Chicago’s sanctuary city ordinance — to protest the federal government’s decision to interview people seeking city services and conduct random searches of city records in the purpose of finding and prosecuting undocumented immigrants.

Two months ago, Lightfoot followed Washington’s playbook, signing an executive order enacting those same protections for those seeking gender-affirming abortions and care in Chicago.

If, as expected, the full city council approves the Rodriguez Sanchez ordinance, that executive order, which is more vulnerable to legal challenge, would be superseded by the force of law.

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