Illinois abortion rights, anti-abortion advocates rally as Supreme Court hears oral arguments in abortion pill case

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Illinois is often called a safe haven when it comes to protecting abortion rights. But advocates are worried about the impact the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision could have on access to an abortion pill.

“We’re remaining optimistic and hopefully we will have and continue to have the ability to use mifepristone,” Patience Roundtree, the director of organizing and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said.

The high court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving mifepristone, one of two drugs used in a medication abortion.

The FDA approved the drug more than two decades ago and the agency took actions in 2016 and 2021 to expand access.

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Abortion rights advocates rallied in Chicago Tuesday as the court considered oral arguments.

“Abortion pills by mail make essential reproductive health care more accessible for those who are already marginalized, and those who cannot afford to take off work and find childcare and travel long distances to visit a distant clinic in another state,” Anne Rumberger with Chicago for Abortion Rights said during the rally.

Anti-abortion advocates involved in the case before the Supreme Court want to limit access to mifepristone.

Some anti-abortion groups in Illinois held a separate rally Tuesday outside of a Walgreens in Deerfield.

The company, along with CVS, began dispensing mifepristone earlier this month in some states.

“It’s disturbing to the half of Americans who describe themselves as pro-life,” Eric Scheidler, the executive director of Pro-Life Action League, said. “They don’t want to see their neighborhood pharmacy involved in the abortion industry.”

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Scheidler hopes the court rolls back the expanded access. Regardless, in a state like Illiois where abortion rights are protected, he said their organization’s work remains the same.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is to go out to the abortion facilities and offer alternatives to support our pregnancy centers that are helping thousands of women every year, and to highlight the question of unwanted abortion,” Scheidler said.

Many believe the court will likely side with the FDA in this case. Still, Roundtree said if the court rules to roll back access, Planned Parenthood of Illinois would only be able to use misoprostol for medication abortions.

“That would really, really extend the procedure by several hours, if not longer,” Roundtree said. “We have a lot of people coming in from other states, so it really does impose an additional burden on people seeking that care, especially those forced to flee their home states to come to Illinois for care.”

Governor J.B. Pritzker released a statement Tuesday through Think Big America, calling on the court to reject the case. Pritzker launched the campaign in October as part of an effort to expand and protect reproductive rights across the country.

“This case is not about drug safety or FDA approval processes – it’s about continuing to erode a woman’s freedom to make her own healthcare decisions in this country,” Pritzker said.

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