Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin said she was “shocked, devastated” when she learned about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The 1973 Supreme Court ruling protects the ability of pregnant women to choose to have an abortion without strict government interference.

Conyears, a West Side resident married to 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, spoke for most of the women gathered around her inside a press briefing room in City Hall on May 9, for the launch of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Justice for All Pledge.

The Pledge allocates $500,000 from the Chicago Department of Public Health for a wide range of services, including transporting women in and out of state to reproductive health clinics around the city, paying for their lodging and shoring up the security of reproductive health clinics.

“Reproductive rights are a fiction without access to healthcare and access to healthcare cannot be a commodity only available to the wealthy,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

During the press conference, a range of women’s reproductive health advocates and experts said if the Court overturns Roe, women in states with strict abortion laws will come into Illinois, where the reproductive health system is already under enormous pressure.

That influx of what state Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy (14th) called “medical refugees” into Illinois could make it harder for women on the West and South sides to access abortions and other reproductive health services.

Qudsiyyah Shariyf, the deputy director at Chicago Abortion Fund — an organization that provides “financial, logistical and emotional support to people seeking abortion services,” according its website — said that Illinois has “long been a receiving state for people who are traveling from the surrounding Midwestern states for abortion care.”

I want to emphasize that this is not only about reproductive rights. If you read that draft opinion, [you’ll see] they’re coming for the rest of us, as well,”

mayor lori lightfoot

Last year, about 77% of people calling Chicago Abortion Fund for assistance were outside of Illinois “and that number has only increased this year,” she said.

Jennifer Welch, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois, said, if Roe is overturned and federal abortion protections fall away, Illinois will be surrounded by Republican states with strict reproductive rights laws.

“Illinois will be a haven in the Midwest,” she said. “It will be the only place where patients can still get the care they need and deserve, when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.”

Welch said Planned Parenthood Illinois is preparing “to seek double to five times the number of patients that we currently see for abortion care. That is staggering to continue and, at the same time, we have a deep commitment to our existing patients — people who come to us for family planning, every form of legal birth control, STI [sexually transmitted infections] testing and treatment, HIV prevention, gender-affirming hormone therapy.”

Welch said the funds provided by the Justice for All Pledge would help Planned Parenthood continue to “serve the health needs of the people in Englewood and Austin.”

Diana Parker, the executive director of Midwest Access Coalition, an organization that provides accommodation and support for women in the Midwest seeking legal abortions, said the Coalition supports about 120 to 150 people a month. She said those clients went to 69 clinics around the country last year, but “over a third of them came to Chicago.”

Parker said “because of the economic and racial inequities in this country, most of the people reaching out to us are people of color and most of them are parents,” adding that the country’s lack of living wages and universal child care make the barriers to access services for those parents “immense and cruel … and they’re going to become crueler.”

Parker said the need for the Coalition’s services will grow if Roe is overturned, estimating that 100,000 people across the country will be unable to get abortions next year.

On May 2, Politico broke the news that the Court voted to strike down the landmark case in a draft majority opinion written by conservative Associate Justice Samuel Alito that the publication obtained. Since then, the Court has launched an investigation into the leaked draft, the first in the Court’s history experts say.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lightfoot said she’s urging mayors in cities across the country, as well as other elected officials in Illinois, to join her in pledging to protect access to safe and legal abortions and other reproductive health services.

The mayor said those seeking to support can donate to organizations on the frontline of protecting women’s reproductive health rights, adding that the Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe could foreshadow other attacks.

“I want to emphasize that this is not only about reproductive rights. If you read that draft opinion, [you’ll see] they’re coming for the rest of us, as well,” the mayor said.

“Particularly my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ-plus community. They’re coming for our rights,” Lightfoot said. “The [amicus brief] on the behalf of the appellants and that horrible, mean-spirited draft opinion call our rights ‘phony rights.’ They want to undermine the right to same-sex marriage, the right to interracial marriage, the right to be free of sodomy laws across the country.”

Rep. Cassidy echoed Lightfoot’s concerns, saying that “we are watching in real time as our rights are being stripped away,” adding that “every single group that is not straight, [cisgendered], male and Christian — We’re all on the menu, y’all.”

Cassidy said she’s working on a bill in the General Assembly that would create “comprehensive safe have language” designed to protect medical refugees from other states.

Lightfoot urged other lawmakers from various levels of government to join the fight.

“All people of goodwill who say they care about equity and inclusion … if you care about those things, this is your moment to stand tall,” the mayor said. “We’ve got to be prepared to fight at all levels of government […] They want a culture war, but they are messing with the wrong people.”