Roe v. Wade protest
Jacqueline von Edelberg holds a sign with other abortion rights demonstrators Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Chicago. Matt Marton / Associated Press, File Photo

With Roe v. Wade overturned, Chicago area residents share their perspectives on abortion

A teen abortion opponent. A woman not ready for children. Eight people’s stories about abortion, told in their own words.

Jacqueline von Edelberg holds a sign with other abortion rights demonstrators Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Chicago. Matt Marton / Associated Press, File Photo
Roe v. Wade protest
Jacqueline von Edelberg holds a sign with other abortion rights demonstrators Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Chicago. Matt Marton / Associated Press, File Photo

With Roe v. Wade overturned, Chicago area residents share their perspectives on abortion

A teen abortion opponent. A woman not ready for children. Eight people’s stories about abortion, told in their own words.

Jacqueline von Edelberg holds a sign with other abortion rights demonstrators Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Chicago. Matt Marton / Associated Press, File Photo
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A woman who wasn’t ready to have a child. A teenager taking up a family legacy of activism against abortion rights. A couple who worry what abortion restrictions would mean for in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

In the weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions, WBEZ spoke to residents in the Chicago area about their personal experiences and varied perspectives on abortion. 

Here are some of their stories, told in their own words, and edited for brevity.

Candace Wayne
Candace Wayne poses for a portrait in front of her home in Chicago on June 15, 2022. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Candace Wayne, 72, of Chicago

Tell me about your abortion experience:

I was in college in D.C. I believe that I had it in 1968. I had kind of a short-term boyfriend. I got pregnant. I did not have a lot of sexual experience.

I didn’t want to have a child at that point. My boyfriend found somebody who was doing abortions. It was $600. That was a lot of money at that time.

I have specific recollection of getting into a car, being taken to this area in D.C., big huge apartment buildings. I was alone. I’m laying on the bed and [a woman] gave me something to drink and she told me it would calm me down. So I drank it. I remember it had a sweet taste.

A man walks in. He was smoking a cigarette. He didn’t tell me his name. He knew my name. And he said it would take about … I don’t remember exactly. But I remember that I thought, that doesn’t take very long. And he said, ‘But you have to be quiet. You can’t make any noises.’

It was a long time ago. One of my daughters said, “Did you feel bad about getting an abortion?” I didn’t feel guilty. I really didn’t. I knew I had to do that. But the experience was scary.

What has this fight for reproductive rights meant to you?

This has always been a trigger point for me, so I’ve always done something related to it. Even though mine was a bad experience, I was able to get it. It troubles me so much now that so many women are going to be denied the right to make that choice and that it will have such far reaching effects on their life.

What do you plan to do?

I’ve been in touch with a couple of clinics about the escort services, and the possibility of getting groups of women who could go to certain locations, maybe get a hotel room, and then help transport over state lines. Demonstrations are important, but the real groundwork has to be done.

Abortion opponent signs
Abortion opponent signs on the ground at a rally in Chicago June 24, 2022. Courtney Kueppers / WBEZ

Hope Miller, 17, of Lake Zurich

Tell me about your perspective on abortion:

My grandfather is Joe Scheidler. He’s named nationally as the godfather of the pro-life movement. I grew up being very, very involved with activism. It truly comes from a place of every single human being on this earth has value and dignity and every single human being should be treated as such. And we have to start at the very beginning.

So if you don’t have a basis, like a solid ground for your respect of human life, then it’s going to be very shaky for your properly respecting people later on. I know how much abortion hurts women. Yes, you can talk about stats all day, but also talking to these people, learning about their stories and the situations they’ve been through — it’s truly heartbreaking.

Going back to that every single human should be treated with value and dignity, that goes for women, too. Abortion is not the answer to that. It’s finding them proper help.

What has the fight against abortion meant to you?

It’s an honor to be able to fight for something so noble. The joy and fulfillment that it brings me to be able to serve these people in such a beautiful way, it is awesome.

But as much as I love my job, I’m working towards the point where it doesn’t even have to exist anymore. The movement as a whole has been a big blessing because this battle to end abortion is actually not only physically hard. It’s hard to get laws changed. It’s hard to get clinics [to] close. It’s hard to change peoples’ minds on abortion. It’s hard to save babies.

But it’s also emotionally really hard because it is really sad. The community that the pro-life movement is, is just one big community of support and prayer. If a girl walks through the door saying, “I’ve had X number of abortions, but I’m pregnant again and I don’t want to get an abortion,” people are just going to open their arms to her and support her in any way they can. They’re not going to judge her on her path. It’s really, really cool seeing Christ shine throughout all of these people in the movement.

How significant is this moment?

The overturning of Roe is huge. It is the biggest thing in the pro-life movement’s history, the biggest accomplishment, and I’m very excited about it. I will say, however, while it is a total victory, it’s about to get a lot harder in Illinois [for the pro-life movement].

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has made it so that Illinois is the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to standing up for women’s so-called reproductive rights. He’s also made it so young girls under the age of 18 can get abortions without their parents knowing. People will be flocking to our state to get those abortions. It’s going to be very hard getting our numbers down, saving these babies and protecting these women. Illinois will become America’s abortion capital.

Jarren Stroter
Jarren Stroter, an educator and activist, near her home on the Southside of Chicago on June 24, 2022. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Jarren Stroter, 36, of Chicago

Tell me about your perspective on abortion:

Legislation in general is like a small few ruling over the large majority. I don’t feel that the people that are in charge look like the people that they are governing. Frankly we don’t need to be asking men what they do with their bodies. But women’s bodies are always up for discussion.

If abortion was truly pro-life, then we would do a better job of taking care of the living. I think that we would do a better job of creating all things that are pro-life: gun reform, making sure we have adequate and healthy food to eat, ending homelessness and schools being properly funded. People having their basic needs met.

What has this fight for reproductive rights meant to you?

I’m an educator and I definitely call myself some sort of a community activist. I’m always trying to figure out how to create more for the marginalized. The system is designed so the advocacy conversations are not had. And when the advocacy conversations are not had, then people go to extremes.

And that is one of my biggest issues with the idea of making abortions illegal. It’s not that people won’t have abortions. It’s that they won’t be done in safe spaces. It could cause more harm. I’ll speak specifically to the Black experience for women wanting to have a child. We’re killing more Black women and babies just trying to go through a regular pregnancy. So imagine trying to abort and having to do it in secret.

How significant is this moment?

The legislation itself is not as jarring as, ‘What else are you all going to try to do?’ On a day-to-day basis, I’m a ‘regular person.’ Being a parent, and being a Black woman and being, ‘Why is the price of gas so high? Why do chicken wings cost $25 a package?’ It’s not at the forefront of my head, ‘Are they going to overturn Roe v. Wade?’

I choose not to live like my humanity is always in question. But from experiencing stuff like this, it makes me understand that it is.

Michelle Valiukenas
Michelle Valiukenas poses for a portrait in front of her home in Chicago on June 15, 2022. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Michelle Valiukenas, 40, and Mark Tisdahl, 45, a married couple in Glenview. 

They used in vitro fertilization for three children — only one has survived.

Tell me about your perspective on abortion:

Michelle: When I was 21 weeks pregnant, we went to a standard OB appointment and my blood pressure was 188 over 110. I was admitted [to the hospital] with severe preeclampsia. She was delivered at 24 weeks, five days, and was taken straight off to the NICU. She spent her short life — nine days in the NICU — before we lost her.

Mark: In the time period where Michelle was hospitalized, the doctors did give us some options as far as what we could or couldn’t do. One of them was to deliver, have [their daughter Colette] die in our arms because it was before there were any potential medical interventions. I have always been extremely pro-choice. Michelle has been pro-life personally, pro-choice politically. And the doctor asks if we wanted to essentially have her born and die in arms. And my response was, ‘No.’

Michelle: When it got presented to me, I kind of froze. It was my health that was on the line. The doctor we had was actually very awesome. He heard Mark and then he turned to me and he said, ‘Is he answering for both of you, or do you feel differently?’ I said, ‘No, I agree.’ (The couple opted instead to send Colette to the NICU, but she did not survive.)

I think for me, that was really a turning point. I had always felt like for myself, this is a decision I would make. I would never ever [have an abortion]. But just because I feel that way doesn’t mean other people should be restricted given their situations.

I think we’re at a point where I think we have people in charge, and largely men in charge, whose wishes are to basically send women back to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. And I think that is really what is at stake. The morality of whether abortion feel like it’s right for you or not and what you believe to me is not the center issue. I think the center issue is we are taking away rights from women and telling them that their life does not matter and their body does not matter.

Mark: We talk about abortion as the end of a pregnancy. But depending on how laws are written, it could also mean pregnancies can’t happen. If a law is written where it is considered a baby at conception versus conception and implantation, Colette wouldn’t have existed. Our son, who is alive, Elliott, wouldn’t have existed because we used IVF. There is an embryo for five or six days before it’s implanted. And so when you start talking conception, you also mean that families like ours don’t exist.

Christy Uchida
Christy Uchida of Chicago near her office in the loop on June 24, 2022. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Christy Uchida, 50, of Chicago

Tell me about your abortion experience:

I had an abortion as an adult. It was a very straightforward decision for me. I never considered having a child. I have never been married. I’m still child free. And I feel very fortunate that I was able to have all the resources and support — emotional, financial. I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic that was extremely well run, so efficient, caring. I had a family member who went with me. I had a surgical abortion at 10 weeks, and I’ve never regretted it. And I don’t think I would be where I am in my career now if I had had to have children as a single person.

How significant is this moment?

It just feels like such a mile marker. My mother had children right before Roe was passed. I have nieces who are teenagers right now. So they’re coming into this and into their reproductive ages. And I just think, how is it possible that mine was the only generation of which abortion was readily accessible, as it should be?

What do you plan to do?

I definitely plan to continue donating to abortion access or reproductive rights organizations and volunteering for the Midwest Access Coalition. I live very close to one of the main independent [abortion] clinics in the city. Transportation is such a hassle, and people are already taking a bus or long train rides to get to Chicago for abortion access.

Once they’re in the city, at least to have a short commute to the clinic is helpful. I live alone in a small one-bedroom loft apartment. I’m only housing people when I am not there. The silver lining of the pandemic was that I paid off my mortgage on this very small apartment that I’ve been in for 20 years. If I were to purchase a new condo for living, maybe my place is the kind of place that could be used more full time by MAC clients and others who need to travel to Chicago for abortions.

Abortion rights march
Abortion rights demonstrators march in Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Mark Capapas / AP Photo

Quigley McCrillis, 25, Chicago

Tell me about your perspective on abortion:

I grew up in Georgia and I was sent to 12 years of Catholic private education. So I was pretty thoroughly educated in a system that stigmatizes abortion. I was also a closeted trans person all through that and until I graduated college, then I moved to Chicago.

In 2020, I came out as trans non-binary. I knew that Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned in one of the next couple of terms. And I also knew that I had two or three years left on my parents’ health care, which I joined after I graduated college. So when I came out I wanted immediately to get a full hysterectomy so that I could know that I would be protected.

I knew that I would never want to give birth. The only way that that would happen [getting pregnant] was if it was against my will. … I got the hysterectomy in 2021.

How significant is this moment?

It is very clear that anti-abortion activists are not going to stop there. They want to outlaw contraception. Some of them want to outlaw interracial marriage (A U.S. senator from Indiana suggested states should be able to decide, but later walked that back). They definitely want to go back on the granting of same-sex marriage. And they also are already passing and have been passing legislation against trans folks that live in this country. They’re already coming for us. They will come for the rest.

What do you plan to do?

There are a couple of organizations that have been formed by trans people to give trans people contraceptive care, abortion care and other gender-affirming care. I’m looking into what I can do for those organizations.

Abortion opponents rally
Grace Miller 11, left, and Leo Miller 5, right, hold signs during a Pro-Life rally at Federal Plaza Friday, June 24, 2022, in Chicago, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade. Paul Beaty / AP Photo

Lisa Claussen, 58, of Beach Park

Tell me about your abortion experience:

I unfortunately had an abortion 30-plus years ago, worst thing I could have ever done. I didn’t feel nothing at first when I decided to do it. It was after I felt it. I felt shame. I felt guilt. I felt sadness. I felt grief.

Unfortunately, they don’t tell about the mother afterward who decided to have an abortion. I’m not condemning anybody that has because I unfortunately did. But if I can prevent somebody from having one, then by all means that would be great.

I have three kids now. They’re all grown. And I love them to pieces. And I hope I’ve changed their mind if they ever were in this state.

What does access to reproductive care mean to you?

If there was no legalized abortion, I probably wouldn’t have had the abortion. I would have just [thought], OK, I’m going to have to deal with it or give it away or something.

What has the fight against abortion meant to you?

Everything. If it can save not only that baby, but that woman, too. It will save her life internally. There’s a lot of women who suffer silently that don’t want to talk about it because they feel shame. That was me. If I can prevent somebody else from feeling the same way I did, then that’s two lives saved.

Kristen Schorsch covers public health and Cook County on WBEZ’s government and politics team. Follow her @kschorsch.