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Chicago protestors target Texas abortion law

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Organizers at Planned Parenthood of Illinois and its partners gathered downtown with nearly 100 people at Federal Plaza in Chicago Friday to protest a new law in Texas that bans most abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.

The law went into effect Sept. 1 and prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy. The law also says that anyone who performs an abortion or helps someone get an abortion can be sued by any private citizen as a way to further enforce the new legislation.

Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Illinois’ Planned Parenthood, said the group’s clinics have been seeing patients from Texas every day since Sept. 3 as abortion in Illinois is legal.

“People had to travel a thousand miles to get their health care because of this Texas law, so that’s one reason why we’re out here protesting in Chicago,” Welch said. “The second reason is because our surrounding states that already have abortion restrictions in place are looking at similar bans, so even more patients would have to come to us, will have to travel, for this essential care.”

About 20 anti-abortion protesters gathered nearby. Both crowds had a mix of younger and older participants taking part in versions of popular protest chants.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland says Texas does not even dispute the fact that its newly enacted abortion law is unconstitutional.

A third group of about 10 people stood along an edge of Federal Plaza dressed in red robes and white bonnets but didn’t take part in any of the noise. The Illinois Handmaids, who attended to show their support of pro-abortion rights, participated by standing in silence and holding signs while dressed in the signature attire of the classic dystopian novel the group is named after, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Bolingbrook resident Corrine Bengtson Marsala said she took a bus to Chicago Friday to be a part of the anti-abortion protest because she wanted to take part having volunteered with the local nonprofit Pro-Life Action League for more than a decade. She said her hope, which is in line with the organization’s goal, is for other states to adopt a “heartbeat law.”

“I’m standing as the voice for the voiceless, for the baby’s rights to a life,” she said. “Let’s change the word abortion and make it adoption. It’s so much gentler on the baby and then they can go into a family who can’t have biological children.”

Barbara Ellis attended Friday to stand against the Texas law along with her husband, John Ellis. The couple has lived in Chicago for the more than 30 years they’ve been married, plus some.

John Ellis said he believes the motivation behind Texas’ new legislation is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1970s Supreme Court case that decided women have a constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion.

Barbara Ellis said the abortion issue aside, she has a problem with the “bounties and vigilantism” within the new law.

“Law enforcement belongs to law enforcement, not to just any old Joe on the street,” she said. “Without that we’ve got chaos.”

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