Suburban women share fears, hopes for future amid reignited abortion debate

  • Jessica Maag of Des Plaines and her three children at a women's rights march last year. Maag says she fears for the preservation of access to abortions for her children and women from marginalized communities.

    Jessica Maag of Des Plaines and her three children at a women's rights march last year. Maag says she fears for the preservation of access to abortions for her children and women from marginalized communities. Courtesy of Jessica Maag

  • Jocelyne Flores

    Jocelyne Flores

and Maria Gardner
Posted5/6/2022 5:30 AM

Jessica Maag of Des Plaines has never known a world without women having control over their own reproductive systems.

That's the world in which the 43-year-old imagined her three children would grow up.


Since the election of former Republican President Donald Trump, Maag and other women across the suburbs and nation have spoken out about the possibility of losing reproductive and other rights, not only for women but also within LGBTQ communities.

Those fears became real when a draft leaked of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade -- the landmark 1973 decision barring excessive government restrictions on abortion.

The leak has been met with a mix of emotions, outraging many including Maag. Meanwhile, anti-abortion advocates are hopeful the Supreme Court's potential overturning of Roe v. Wade is a first step toward saving more unborn lives and rolling back abortion laws in states, including Illinois.

"The problem with this projected ruling is that the people with privilege are still going to have access to abortion," said Maag. "It's people of color, low-income people, people with disabilities, trans people ... all of the outliers ... they are the ones that are going to be the most affected."

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Maag, who has one child who is gender-fluid and another who identifies as nonbinary, said many young people and those within the LGBTQ+ community with whom she has been working are "enraged" and "scared of what this means" for other issues.

Jayne Lehman Raef of Bourbonnais, president of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women, said the potential of Roe v. Wade being overturned is encouraging for the anti-abortion movement.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if there is a renewed effort to change (the abortion law) in Illinois," she said.

Illinois law makes access to the procedure widely available and, in some cases, even allows for public funding of abortion.

Raef said people did not have a choice about their bodies over the last couple of years due to COVID-19 and the government dictating "where we can go, when we have to wear masks, what we can do with or without accepting vaccinations."


"And we are going to talk about 'my body, my choice'?" she asked about abortion.

Maureen Severance, 25, of Sugar Grove, also believes a resurgence of the anti-abortion movement in Illinois is imminent when the Supreme Court's final ruling comes down this summer. It will energize people to advocate for limitations on abortion, she said.

"It's going to take a lot of work, but there's an end in sight," said Severance, the third-oldest of 11 siblings raised Catholic who sees abortion as a moral and ethical issue.

Annika Kohls
Annika Kohls

Annika Kohls, 20, of Crystal Lake, a junior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and president of weDignity, a student organization opposing abortions, hopes overturning Roe v. Wade would change dismissive views in American culture about "women carrying an unplanned pregnancy."

Still, others feel if the Supreme Court disregards the nearly 50-year-old precedent, the justices will damage the court's legitimacy by acting on their own ideological beliefs.

"It feels like we are going back in time, instead of making progress," said Jocelyne Flores, 22, of Aurora, a senior at North Central College.

Annika Kohls
Annika Kohls

Flores said increasing restrictions on abortion particularly will hurt low-income women who may not have the resources to travel to other states to have the procedure. Restrictions in some parts of the country will lead to an increase in "women having abortions that are unsafe that may cause them harm," she added.

She expects the issue will drive more young people and women to vote in the upcoming elections to "get our voices heard."

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