Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order Thursday that bans Chicago Police from cooperating with probes into those who travel to the city for abortions or their doctors.
The move backs a push from progressive members of the City Council to enshrine those protections into law. Lightfoot’s announcement came one day after several progressive members of the City Council urged their colleagues to protect those crossing state lines to get reproductive and gender-affirming health care in Chicago.
“We will not collaborate with people who want to deny women’s rights,” Lightfoot said, adding that she will support a measure introduced July 20 by Alds. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), Matt Martin (47th Ward) and Maria Hadden (49th Ward).
However, since the City Council is not scheduled to meet again until Sept. 21 because of its annual summer recess, Lightfoot said her executive order would ensure Chicago remains a “safe haven” for people seeking care now banned in their home states after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“We are not going to be complicit in living out the dreams of another state that wants to criminalize women for seeking access to health care,” Lightfoot said, likening efforts to prevent people from crossing state lines to get an abortion to efforts to require enslaved people who fled to the north to be sent back to the south before the Civil War. “We can’t go back to those times.”
Lightfoot's order does not mention gender-affirming care.
The order is modeled on the city’s rules designed to protect immigrants from prohibiting members of the Chicago Police Department from cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies.
Those protections have been in place in Chicago since 1985, when former Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws. It became law in 2006 and was reaffirmed after the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump. With Lightfoot’s support, the City Council voted to expand those protections twice in 2020, after the election of President Joe Biden.
Lightfoot signed the executive order flanked by several members of the City Council who she has been at odds with on other issues, including public safety.
That is an indication that the issue of abortion will complicate the usual political divisions at City Hall in an election year.
Led by Rodriguez Sanchez, the alderpeople also introduced a measure that would earmark $1 million in the city’s 2023 spending plan to ensure people can access abortion in Chicago, where clinics have been deluged by calls for help from people traveling from Wisconsin and other states where abortion is now banned.
After an early version of the Supreme Court decision that would overturn the federal right to an abortion leaked in May, Lightfoot set aside $500,000 to help organizations like Chicago Abortion Fund and the Midwest Access Coalition provide transportation, housing and care to those seeking an abortion.
While Lightfoot said more funding will be needed, she stopped short of endorsing the measure authored by Rodriguez Sanchez.
Megan Jeyifo, the executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, said the number of people seeking help has doubled since the Supreme Court’s decision. That is expected to soar in the coming weeks when Indiana officials ban abortion, Jeyifo said.