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ACLU of Illinois says abortion remains a right, despite Supreme Court ruling's uncertainty

 Ed Yohnka
ACLU of Illinois
Ed Yohnka is director of communications and public policy at the ACLU of Illinois.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lost no time in responding to the leak of a draft document suggesting the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade. The nonprofit legal organization said it would continue to fight for the “right to choose when or if to have a child.”

Lyndsay Jones spoke Tuesday with Ed Yohnka, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Illinois, on WGLT's newsmagazine Sound Ideas. Yohnka said the organization takes issue with the viewpoint that abortion, or the ability to choose whether to have one, is not a fundamental human right.

WGLT: The ACLU nationally says abortion is a right. Some argue it isn’t, and that a draft opinion like this does not actually withdraw any rights. Can you speak to that?

Yohnka: There's a wonderful old quote from Abraham Lincoln. It's one of my favorite Lincoln quotes, in which he said, How many legs does a dog have, if you call its tail a leg? It still has four. Because just saying something doesn't make it true.

This is a constitutional right, that has been recognized for 50 years in our country. And people have ordered their lives on the basis of that right existing and being available to them. And in fact, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Supreme Court not only upheld Roe, but noted that one of the reasons they were doing it — this is back in the early 1990s — was because there needed to be certainty for people about this fundamental right.

In Illinois, we've established it as a fundamental right in our law, to make the determination whether or not to continue a pregnancy. The idea that there isn't a right that's to be protected here, I think is just wishful thinking and just suggests a particular viewpoint, but not really a discussion of merit or fact.

What does this do to the greater issue of privacy at large, that Fourth Amendment issue?

We're all reading a draft, and I think we obviously have to be cognizant of that.

But if you read that draft, it presents a roadmap to undo a whole range of other personal decisions, from who whom one loves, and whom one marries, to access to contraceptive coverage, and a range of other things. This isn't simply overturning a fundamental right to abortion in this country. This is really upending kind of a societal and legal framework and understanding that we've had about the ability of people to make one's own decisions. And what the court is saying is … that those decisions should not be left up to us as individuals, but rather should be turned over to elected officials.

What's the next step for the ACLU Illinois?

Number one, we want everybody in the sound of our voices to understand that, in fact, abortion remains legal and accessible in Illinois today. This is a draft of a decision that would not affect the state of Illinois. We have done the hard work in Illinois, to put protections in place, and we at the ACLU, along with others, will be working doubly so to ensure that those protections remain in place as we move forward.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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