NCJW Chicago North Shore: Continuing RBG’s Legacy on Reproductive Rights

By NCJW staff

As the keynote speaker at a September 18th rally commemorating the anniversary of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Illinois State Policy Advocacy Chair Jill Lexier reminded the crowd of the impact Justice Ginsburg had on all our lives:

Who has a bank account or credit card in your name? Thank RBG.

Who attended a state-funded school? Thank RBG.

Who worked while pregnant? Or intends to? Or needs to? Thank RBG.

Who got to marry the person they love? Thank RBG.

Who has had an abortion or knows someone who has had an abortion? Thank RBG.

Lexier also shared NCJW’s Reproductive Freedom Intention for Justice Ginsburg’s First Yahrtzeit as a uniquely Jewish way to honor her memory.

NCJW Chicago North Shore coordinated the rally in Illinois alongside partners and allies, including abortion doctors and impacted communities, because part of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy is currently under attack. Just a couple of weeks prior to the rally, the Supreme Court let Texas’ restrictive six-week abortion ban go into effect, effectively banning abortion in the state.

“We think of Illinois as a safe haven but the Hyde Amendment was born in Illinois and one bad election cycle could turn the clock back in Illinois as it did in Texas,” said Melissa Prober, executive director of NCJW Chicago North Shore, at the Glenview rally for abortion justice on October 2. “Plus, the right to have an abortion is quite different from the ability to access it. We need to work at both the state and federal levels to protect abortion access!”

At both rallies, NCJW advocates and partners specifically called for the repeal of the parental notification requirement in the state. While there is a “judicial bypass” that allows some teens to avoid their parents being notified about their abortion, it is burdensome and the notification requirement adds undue burden and danger for young people. Many NCJW advocates volunteer on hotlines for young people to access the “judicial bypass,” in addition to advocating for the end of the required notification by sharing testimony in hearings and contacting their state legislators.

“With SB 8 in Texas and copycat laws in other states — including some of whom border Illinois — most people realize Illinois will be kind of an oasis for many people having to come from out of state,” shared Jill Lexier regarding the urgency of the legislation. “I do think it is heartbreaking to imagine that a young person could make their way all the way from a place like Texas and get here and realize they have this additional barrier to getting an abortion.”

Like many NCJW sections, the Chicago North Shore section has long advocated for expanding access to abortion and reproductive health care. As part of the Reproductive Health and Access Coalition, the section secured the passage of HB 40 in 2017, which repealed the state equivalent of the Hyde Amendment. This action ensured that all Illoniosians, regardless of income, have access to abortions.

In 2019, NCJW Chicago North Shore and their partners successfully advocated state lawmakers to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which protects the right of all people to access abortions in Illinois, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

While access to abortion is a critical piece of reproductive health, rights and justice, NCJW, inspired by the Reproductive Justice movement, understands that there are additional factors necessary to ensure that a world in which everyone is free to make decisions regarding their body, future and health.

Most recently in May, the Chicago North Shore section hosted a program, “Addressing Black Maternal Health Disparities.” Representative Lauren Underwood and representatives from EverThrive IL highlighted the intersection of reproductive rights and racial justice for section members. The section also advocated for the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act, which passed and will create a more comprehensive — and inclusive — sex education for all Illinois students. Through this legislation, students will learn the importance of bodily autonomy from a young age and celebrate diverse gender expressions and sexual orientations.

Whether at rallies, on the phone with young people seeking abortions or emailing state legislators about inclusive sex ed, the NCJW advocates of the Chicago North Shore section are continuing RBG’s legacy.

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