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Democracy in Illinois: Reproductive Justice in the Midwest

With this election riding off the wave of Roe v. Wade being overturned just a few months before, it’s safe to say that reproductive justice is one of the biggest issues impending in this election.

Voter turnout tends to be lower during midterms, although over 5.5 million Americans have already cast their vote in this election. Still, evidence supports the existence of voter suppression in communities of color, making voter access another important topic in this election.    

“For people of color, historically, elections have not benefited them. Promises are broken, racism exists to where they say ‘why bother, my vote doesn’t count’,” said Maureen Keane, co-founder of She Votes IL. “And so we all need to take a hard look at what that means. And how do we make those corrections to make marginalized communities be able to use their power and vote.” 

There’s power in these numbers. Latinos are the fastest growing racial-ethnic group in the country. According to Pew Research Center, 34.5 million Hispanic Americans are eligible to vote this year. This number has increased by 4.7 million from the Midterm Election in 2018, accounting for 62 percent of total growth of eligible voters.

What’s at stake in this election?

While Wisconsin health providers ceased performing abortions, enacting an 1849 abortion ban after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, these procedures remain legal in Illinois. This prompted a partnership between Planned Parenthood in these states to fill the need for the influx of people traveling across state lines for treatment.

Reproductive justice is most often associated with abortion rights and access. In the broader sense, this term encompasses a human’s right to control their own body and make decisions regarding reproduction, sexuality, gender, childrearing and more. 

As Keane explained, “Reproductive justice is the access to reproductive healthcare, the affordability of reproductive healthcare, [and the freedom from] discrimination [and] racism that creates those barriers.” 

When asked which issues were “very important” to their decision-making in this election, Pew reports that 71 percent of Latino registered voters said healthcare and 57 percent said abortion.

Several bills in the works could have an impact on reproductive rights in Illinois, including HB1464 which protects Illinois reproductive healthcare providers from treating out of state patients. Those placed in power during this election can enact bills and policies that directly impact the future of reproductive justice going forward.

Which are some important roles to know?

Graphic courtesy of Be The Ones

How can these positions impact reproductive justice?

The Governor can:

  • Sign/veto bills increasing access and opportunity
  • Influence state legislature on direction and priorities (abortion access, contraception, insurance coverage, Title X, gender-affirming care, etc.)
  • Include funding in state budget for reproductive justice policies and programs
  • Hire or fire some senior-level state roles
  • Champion insurance policies for state employees (bereavement including miscarriage, paid family leave, medically necessarytransition-related care)

The District Attorney can:

  • Prioritize defending civil rights and reproductive justice through decisions on health-related investigations and prosecutions
  • Influence the future of mass incarceration, death penalty and diversion programs (incarceration of birthing people, access to diversion programs for transgender individuals, etc.)
  • Support programs and training for staff to be humane and fair

The Sheriff can:

  • Decide to arrest people wanting, needing, or offering reproductive healthcare and how to sentence them
  • Decide how to enforce state abortion bans and if they’ll work with out of state inquiries/investigations
  • Control what health services people in prison have access to
    (contraception, menstrual products, pregnancy care, routine health services, etc.)
  • Determine if birthing people are forced to give birth in jail
  • Control treatment/care of transgender people in prison
  • Provide security and protection at healthcare centers

The School Boards can:

  • Support comprehensive and medically accurate sex education 
  • Expand funding and access to medical and mental health services for students 
  • Pass policies protecting LGBTQIA+ students 
  • Support pregnant and parenting youth 
  • Work with local elected officials to make reproductive healthcare accessible to teens and overcome barriers including transportation, limited income and language access

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This year’s General Election takes place on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Early Voting in IL started on Oct. 24. You can participate in Early Voting through Nov. 7.

Early Voting in WI (by absentee ballot) opened on Oct. 25. You can participate in Early Voting through Nov. 5. 

Additional resources: 

Be The Ones nonpartisan voter guide in English

Be The Ones nonpartisan voter guide in Spanish

She Votes IL Why Your Vote Matters voting info guide 

AARP How to Vote in WI’s 2022 Elections guide

Early Voting in Chicago here

Early Voting in Illinois here 

Find your polling place in Illinois here

What’s on your ballot? Ballotopedia tool Illinois

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Publisher’s note: WI Latino News and IL Latino News, sister markets under the Latino News Network (LNN), have put together this informational guide with the help of our partner Be The Ones, to assist voters make informed decisions not only at the polls, but in their engagement with democracy going forward.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

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