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One year after the fall of Roe v. Wade, CU activists focus on joy

A long line of protestors holding signs saying "Hands off my pussy" and "Her body, her choice" walk down a street.
Pro-abortion rights protestors walk down Green Street in Urbana during the Women's March in May 2021. At the time, protestors were calling for the right to abortion access to be codified into federal law, but a year later, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the case that guaranteed that right.

As the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and the nationwide right to an abortion approaches, Champaign-Urbana abortion rights activists are celebrating. 

The event on Sunday afternoon is called “Acts of Joyful Insurrection” and will focus on finding joy and moving forward as a community.

“We’re really trying to bring some joy into this space in this dark and sad time,” said Sam Auerbach, a former nurse practitioner living in Champaign-Urbana and a post-doctoral fellow researching abortion justice at the University of California San Francisco. 

She said these kinds of events are necessary to prevent burnout among activists. 

“The problem is we’re all so exhausted and, you know, overwhelmed by the mass of bad news that I think it’s easy to disengage and become apathetic,” Auerbach said. “And so this is where joy comes in.”

The event will take place on Sunday afternoon at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, and attendees can put together abortion aftercare packages, attend a teach-in led by Auerbach, create kits for people traveling to access abortion or gender-affirming care, and see musical and comedy performances.

Julie Laut, the founder of Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice and the organizer of the event, said she hopes this event can help attendees feel solidarity and uplift one another as they continue to fight for abortion access.

According to Planned Parenthood of Illinois, the organization has seen a 54% rise in abortions in Illinois since the Supreme Court’s decision, and the state has seen the second-highest increase in abortions in the country over the last year, per a report from the University of Chicago.

Though abortion remains legal in Illinois, Laut said organizers see the fall of Roe v. Wade as an opportunity to build something better through a framework called reproductive justice, which takes a more holistic view of how reproductive health is connected to other aspects of life. 

Laut said she wants to show that abortion access affects more people than just potential mothers and is tied to issues like food security or whether the minimum wage is high enough to care for a child.

Now, a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she said that UCRJ is focusing on spreading that message and trying to get more people involved in the fight.

“I really feel like this year our goal is broadening that education, broadening that umbrella, to have more people see themselves as part of this work,” she said. 

She says more comprehensive reforms, like increasing access to childcare or pre- and postnatal healthcare, are necessary to provide support to people in Illinois, regardless of whether or not someone chooses to get an abortion.

Despite states across the country considering and passing more restrictions on abortion, organizers say they’re feeling optimistic about the fight. 

Brigid Leahy, the Vice President of Public Policy of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said that, in some ways, having national access to abortion stripped away has made people more engaged with the effort.

“We’re committed to it, we’re fully there — and actually very resolved,” Leahy said. “There’s some energy that comes from having your rights not recognized.”

Auerbach said the barrage of legislation has only made organizations work more closely with each other, which has helped lift her spirits for the future. 

“I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m actually feeling hopeful.”

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Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson covers arts and culture, as well as LGBTQ issues for Illinois Public Media News. He studied journalism, Spanish and theater at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has worked with Illinois Public Media in various capacities since 2021.

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