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Abortion rights supporters mobilize in B-N, as conservatives choose caution over celebration

Connie Beard and Nikita Richards
McLean County Republican Party chair Connie Beard, left, and Nikita Richards, incoming vice chair of the board of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Supporters of abortion rights in Bloomington-Normal began to mobilize Tuesday after the Supreme Court draft ruling leak, as abortion-rights opponents voiced caution about their apparent win.

A rally in defense of abortion rights was scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday outside the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. Speakers will include a representative of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, chair of the ACLU local chapter, elected officials and candidates, faith leaders, and young leaders from the Democratic Party, according to an invite sent to the media.

Connie Beard, chair of the Republican Party in McLean County, said she will wait to see whether the final Supreme Court opinion on a key abortion case matches the leaked draft before celebrating. That draft would demolish the Roe v. Wade precedent.

Beard said the draft does make her hopeful. In insisting on a woman's right to decide what happens with her own body, Beard said she thinks liberals often overlook some things.

“I think it’s a limited view of the impact that an abortion has. It’s not only ending a life. It is causing some often lasting damage to the individual who undertakes the process,” Beard said.

Nationwide polls suggest a majority of Americans support abortion rights. But years of activism by abortion rights opponents at all levels of government have brought Roe v. Wade and related precedent closer than ever to being reversed.

Twenty-six states are poised to immediately ban or acutely curtail access to abortions if the Supreme Court chooses to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that for nearly 50 years has guaranteed people's right to seek an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group in favor of abortion rights.

Nikita Richards of Bloomington-Normal is vice chair of the board of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Richards, a former chair of the McLean County Democrats, also serves on the Illinois Council on Women and Girls.

“My initial response was one of sincere disappointment,” Richards told WGLT on Tuesday, hours after Politico broke the story about the draft ruling. “I'm incensed, but nevertheless ignited. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is a strategic attack yet again on one of the most fundamental basic human rights. And I want to reiterate that this frenzy – it’s a leaked draft opinion, and Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land for now, and abortion remains legal nationwide. And even when Roe does formerly fall, I am confident that abortion will remain legal in Illinois.”

Richards said Illinois saw an increase in patients in the days after Texas’ SB 8 abortion law went into effect last fall, despite the long distance between the two states.

Richards said she expects a similar influx of people seeking “refuge” if Roe is indeed overturned.

“We must put in a mandate and galvanize, to ensure mutual aid for these people who will be coming this way. Whether that’s increasing the financial support for them to travel, providing them with safe housing and an opportunity for them to heal as they receive care – it’s our opportunity to do that,” Richards said. “It’s going to be a very interesting journey for us.”

Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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