In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling last Friday, Oak Park Village Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla will propose an ordinance designating Oak Park as a sanctuary community for abortion. The motion is expected to be seconded by Trustee Chibuike Enyia.
“This isn’t an issue that is only impacting women. This impacts non-binary and LGBTQ people too,” Enyia said. “This is but only a small step in doing what’s right.”
“Village President Vicki Scaman told Wednesday Journal on Monday she is “1,000% in support” of the ordinance.
The ordinance, if approved by the full village board, is intended to prevent the criminalization of abortion seekers and any person or organization that helps connect a person seeking an abortion with resources to facilitate the procedure. If passed, it would preclude local law enforcement from working with law enforcement agencies outside Oak Park to arrest these individuals.
While over a half century abortion was a constitutional right and legalized throughout the nation, the Supreme Court’s decision eliminated that federal protection by overturning Roe v. Wade and the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood ruling that expanded abortion rights. It is now up to individual state governments to set abortion policies in a state.
In his concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote he believed it is unconstitutional for a state to bar its residents from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion legally. This does not, however, prohibit states from doing so.
Abortion is legal in the state of Illinois, but neighboring states are already rolling back abortion access. Missouri enacted a ban on all abortions within minutes of the Supreme Court’s ruling, becoming the first state to do so. Missouri’s ban leaves no exceptions for rape or incest.
“We are going to see and already are seeing a huge influx in people that are seeking abortion services in the state and those people are going to need help, they’re going to need places to stay, they’re going to need so much,” Arti Walker-Peddakotla told Wednesday Journal. “And the protections that Illinois has aren’t enough, especially for patients and providers who travel from other states.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has committed to keeping the state a “safe haven” for reproductive rights, calling the Supreme Court’s decision “abhorrent” in a June 24 press conference. The state is expecting to receive as many as 30,000 abortion seekers from neighboring states.
Walker-Peddakotla believes the entire state of Illinois should be designated a sanctuary for abortion seekers to avoid a “patchwork” of individual sanctuary cities.
The Roe v. Wade reversal has many ramifications for many in the United States as it leaves no national safeguards for victims of rape and incest. The Supreme Court’s action also does not leave any federal allowance for terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons. Based especially on comments by Justice Clarence Thomas, it also puts a number of other legal precedents into question, such as gay marriage, access to contraception and consensual homosexual conduct. The decision now makes the legality of in vitro fertilization, which did not exist before 1973, murky.
Walker-Peddakotla requested support for the sanctuary community ordinance in an email to her fellow village board members on June 25, one day after the Supreme Court’s ruling was announced. She also asked Village Manager Kevin Jackson to have staff begin to draft such an ordinance.
A self-proclaimed police abolitionist, Walker-Peddakotla cited the criminalization of abortion as one of her prevailing concerns in the email sent to the village board and to Wednesday Journal.
Enyia differs in his views on law enforcement but shares Walker-Peddakotla’s desire to see abortion seekers and their allies protected.
“While I don’t identify as a police abolitionist like Arti, on this particular issue, I agree with Arti’s motion and stand firmly in support,” Enyia said.
This is not the first time such an ordinance has been brought forth in Oak Park, as Walker-Peddakotla noted in her email. One month after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the village board unanimously passed an ordinance designating the village a sanctuary community for immigrants.
That particular ordinance prohibited village employees from assisting in investigations of “the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
It also dictated that the Village of Oak Park will not accept requests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on federal immigration enforcement operations.
“We protected people in our village,” Walker-Peddakotla said.
The village now has an opportunity to further protect people in Oak Park, she said.
A number of civil rights organizations, as well as medical journals and professional groups have condemned the Roe v. Wade reversal. In a statement, Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison said the Supreme Court’s decision “fulfills an extreme, out of step, ideological agenda” not in line with the will of the nation.
“When the Supreme Court is willing to throw 50 years of precedent out the window, it proves that we are at an exceedingly dangerous, unprecedented moment,” Madison said.
An editorial by the New England Journal of Medicine said state bans will not reduce the number of abortions but increase maternal mortality rates by shrinking opportunity for safe procedures. The medical journal also blasted states for limiting reproductive rights “based on fig-leaf justification” and “disingenuous rhetoric.”
It is unclear when the abortion sanctuary ordinance will go before the village board for a vote, but both Walker-Peddakotla and Enyia have urged village staff to make haste. The ordinance will have a first reading at a village board meeting then go up for a vote at a subsequent meeting.
In the meantime, Walker-Peddakotla urges anyone wishing to assist women seeking abortions to donate to the Chicago Abortion Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial, logistical and emotional support for abortion seekers.
“Donate to the Chicago Abortion Fund,” she said. “They’re the main abortion fund in Illinois that has been on the ground, really focusing on reproductive justice.”