On the morning of November 15, thirty pro-choice activists braved the cold and wind to protest the crisis pregnancy center at 5116 North Cicero on Chicago’s Northwest Side.
The protest was organized by one of Chicago’s newest feminist organizations, the “radically inclusive” Feminist Uprising to Resist Inequality and Exploitation (FURIE). FURIE took shape just a few months ago, but has already been involved in various protests and initiatives including this year’s SlutWalk Chicago.
The group included multiple alumni of Chicago’s Shimer College (a school with a deep feminist tradition), including Netiya Shiner of Shimer’s class of 2014.
As Shiner explained, “FURIE purposely does not have a hierarchical structure, meaning that all members of FURIE hold equal weight in the decision making processes.” FURIE contains multiple breakout groups that focus on specific causes; the CPC protest was organized by FURIE’s reproductive justice breakout group.
Crisis pregnancy centers have long been a flashpoint of controversy in the abortion debate. The center targeted for the FURIE protest, which traces its roots to the early 1980s, is particularly emblematic due to its close and long-standing ties to Chicago’s Pro Life Action League (PLAL). As Shiner noted, the PLAL sends “sidewalk counselors” to “harass, threaten, and intimidate anyone seeking reproductive healthcare at a nearby clinic.” In addition, many regard it as a terrorist organization due to its past support for violence against abortion clinics.
Quoth Shiner, “I think that many of us feel that for too long we have allowed these folks to bring their fight onto our turf—actual clinics—and it’s time to give these anti-choice crusaders a taste of their own medicine.”
Shiner attended Shimer through the early entrance program, and interned with the Illinois Choice Action Team while a student. She has been active in FURIE since September. When I asked her about her personal interest in this campaign, she explained that “I have been a clinic escort for years now and have seen firsthand just how deceptive and even outright malicious anti-choice tactics can be.”
The CPC protest is likely to be the beginning of a long campaign for FURIE’s reproductive justice group. As Shiner said, “the real long term goal here is to end the harassment of people seeking medical care of any kind, and that means, among other things, ending CPCs as they exist today, which is with the sole purpose of coercing, tricking, or intimidating women out of having abortions.”
Additional photos of the event can be viewed on Flickr.