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'Handmaid's Tale' Dressed Demonstrators Urge Rauner To Sign HB40

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 13, 2017 8:59PM

Demonstrators dressed as handmaids march outside the Thompson Center in Chicago to urge Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to sign HB40. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Demonstrators dressed in red robes and white bonnets circled the Thompson Center in silence to urge Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign HB40, which repeals “trigger” language that would criminalize abortion in Illinois should the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade.

“We want to make a strong visual statement,” said Liz Kersjes, of the outfits inspired by the Margaret Atwood novel turned Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale. “It’s his responsibility to sign this bill because he campaigned on a pro-choice platform,” added Kersjes, who volunteers with both Planned Parenthood and Indivisible. “He said he would support a bill that was identical to this bill. If he doesn’t support it, he’s a liar.”

The bill, which also removes restrictions on Medicaid and state employee health insurance and allows coverage for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion, passed the House in April and the Senate in May. Despite both verbal and financial support of Planned Parenthood and campaign promises to side with those fighting for the reproductive rights of women, Rauner vowed to veto the bill, telling WBEZ in May:

"We're one of the more progressive states. I support that. I want to protect that. But the bill goes further and expands taxpayer funding in a way that only two other states have. That's very divisive, it's very controversial. That part, I don't think makes sense to do now."

After marching around the Thompson Center, demonstrators formed a semi-circle and read a short statement, which included some of Rauner’s own words of support for a bill like HB40.

“You are threatening to break a specific and clear promise you made to us and we will not let it go,” said Jessica Droger, standing in the center of the ring, to assembled supporters and onlookers. “Right now our government is treating women’s bodies as though when we get pregnant we lose our individual rights. The preganancy ends up having more rights than we do. We all deserve to make our own decisions about our bodies and our lives. All of us - we don’t lose our human or constitutional rights when we become pregnant. Uphold your promises, governor Rauner.”

Kersjes also said that abortion access in Illinois is important for women all over the Midwest.

Demonstrators read a message to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner outside the Thompson Center, urging him to sign HB40. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“Almost every other state in the Midwest - all the states surrounding Illinois have more restrictive abortion access laws. Women from across the Midwest come to Illinois for health care services in their home state… It would affect a large swath of the population in the country.”

The protesters used the imagery from Atwood’s novel as a way to highlight just how quickly women’s rights could disappear given the shift rightward America has seen politically. On Wednesday, demonstrator Renee Wsol told Chicagoist the Handmaid’s Tale "is kind of what we envision life may be like under a Pence administration," Wsol. The first time I read book, before the current administration, it seemed like something that could never the themes feel so much like the direction we could be heading in."

Kersjes echoed that sentiment in the Thompson Center Thursday. “We’re seeing more and more with all kinds of issues that what we thought was impossible politically is very possible now. We have a lot of people in power at the federal level who run on campaigns of wanting to overturn Roe V Wade… We don’t believe that politicians should be sitting in a gynecological office with women in the United States,” she said.

Demonstrators dressed as handmaids march around the Thompson Center to urge Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to sign HB40. Photo by Aaron Cynic.