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Protesters across the country are marching for abortion rights

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're watching rallies today in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago in support of abortion rights. Planned marches are in response to a Supreme Court decision that hasn't happened yet, but the leaked draft opinion points to the possibility that the court will either substantially weaken national abortion rights protections or fully overturn Roe v. Wade.

NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Chicago and joins us. Cheryl, thanks so much for being with us.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Oh, quite welcome, Scott.

SIMON: And tell us about the scene there at the march.

CORLEY: Well, Scott, hundreds of people, if not thousands, have been gathering here in a park just west of Chicago's downtown. And they're hearing some very impassioned speeches right now by dignitaries, also by some women who say they have had abortions and by an abortion doctor that drew some big cheers. People are chanting abortion is health care, abortion justice, waving signs, bans off our bodies, I remember 1973. And, you know, people here say they just want abortions to continue to be accessible. They want them to be safe, and they want to be the ones to make the decision about whether or not to have an abortion, that it shouldn't be up to the government. So they are part of this day of action that's called they Bans Off Our Body.

SIMON: What do they hope the rallies accomplish?

CORLEY: Well, you know, in part, it's to let lawmakers and the Supreme Court know that there are just hundreds of thousands of people, men and women, who support Roe v. Wade. And it's an effort, too, to just have some sort of influence over state lawmakers who may end up deciding if abortion will remain legal in their state. I spoke with Rachel Carmona. She's the executive director of Women March. She's one of the organizers of the marches.

RACHEL CARMONA: Our goal is to try to make our voices heard. And we know that we need to build political power. We need to build electoral power, but we also need to build community power. And so these mobilizations are trying to do just that.

SIMON: Cheryl, should the court substantially overturn Roe v. Wade - and we mentioned that possibility - states will then determine abortion access. And you're in Illinois, which could be a real center of what happens. What will the future look like?

CORLEY: Absolutely, Scott, because abortion will remain legal in Illinois, as it will in California and other states. But it means in many (ph) areas, people won't be able to have an abortion. About 26 states have already approved laws that would further limit or ban abortions. And so the centers here in Illinois are preparing for an influx of patients. I visited one Planned Parenthood facility in Illinois, right near the Indiana border, and they increased surgery days from one to two days a week. The president of Planned Parenthood in Illinois, Jennifer Welch, says, you know, people are going to have to just travel for miles in order to receive an abortion. Here's what she said.

JENNIFER WELCH: There may be no abortion access in between Illinois and Colorado. So patients could be coming to us from a number of states, a large swath of the Midwest and the Great Plains. And that's what we are preparing for.

CORLEY: And she says that could mean an extra 20- to 30,000 more patients.

SIMON: And what are you hearing from pro-life forces?

CORLEY: I spoke with one opponent, Eric Scheidler, president of Pro-Life Action League. He says that while they welcome what could be in store for Roe v. Wade, opponents here will still be on the defense.

SIMON: NPR's Cheryl Corley at a rally in Chicago. Cheryl, thanks so much for being with us.

CORLEY: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.