On Oct. 20, Personal PAC, a bipartisan, pro-choice political action committee, hosted its 21st Annual Awards Luncheon at Hilton Chicago.
Former covert CIA operations officer, author, activist and women's rights supporter Valerie Plame was the event's guest speaker.
"You can't have women doing well if their reproductive and health decisions are made by others," Plame said to Windy City Times ( WCT ). "I really think this century, the issue of our time is going to be women's economic and educational freedom because when women do well, all of society does well.
Plame spoke to the room of more than 700 people about her experience serving the country as a CIA agent, the occurrences that led to her leaked identity, and the resulting changes she and her family made. Plame then discussed her stance as she agrees with Personal PAC's position of "women's reproduction health are private and are best decided between her, her doctor and her conscience" and Personal PAC's non-partisan approach that "a woman's right to choose should not be defined by political boundaries."
"I'm so proud and honored to be asked to do this," said Plame to WCT of the invitation to be guest speaker. "This is an issue I believe in passionately and I love Personal Pac's focus on state and local candidates and that's where real change is effected at those levels."
Reaching overseas, founder of Israel's Women of the Wall and Israel Religious Action Center ( IRAC ) Executive Director Anat Hoffman was awarded the Irving B. Harries Spirit of Choice Award for her commitment to women's rights. Hoffman has been arrested, beaten and jailed for defending women's equality to pray as they wish and for Jewish pluralism, tolerance and equality.
"Valerie Plame and Anat Hoffman have no problem standing up to the bullies and hypocrites when it comes to defending women and their right to make their reproductive health care decisions for themselves," said Personal PAC President/CEO Terry Cosgrove.
Personal PAC celebrated its 25th anniversary with the idea of "The personal is political. The political is personal." Altogether, the event raised more than $750,000 dollars. Donors who gave $10,000 or more had the opportunity to have lunch with Gloria Steinem at a later date.
"Women are increasingly CEOs and judges and running the country; yet, at the same time not getting equal pay for equal work," Personal PAC board member Andi Friedman, a reproductive-rights activist and advocate said. "We see sexual harassment, we see domestic violence still keeping women from truly being equal citizens. In as many battles as we've won, it's important we keep the fight going because there is still a lot of work to do."
Gov. Pat Quinn said a few words, while elected officials such as U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Ald. Tom Tunney and state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, among others, were in attendance.
"In 1989, Illinois was one of the most anti-choice states in the entire country and now we have the most pro-choice Governor in the entire country," said Cosgrove. "Gov. Quinn is not only a hero to the LGBT community, but also to Illinois' women, children and families."
Cosgrove explained to WCT, he has never seen much of a difference between support for abortion rights and LGBT rights as they are both about people being allowed to make personal life decisions.
"We know that the top two issues of the right-wing in the U.S. are to keep women and LGBT people from having full expression of their autonomy and dignity," said Cosgrove. "It is not my place as a man to tell any woman to 'come out' about having had an abortion, but I believe that doing so by the one-third of American women who have had an abortion in their lifetimes would go a long way to quieting the debate and settling the issue in both the short and long term."
Cosgrove's speech focused on the upcoming 2014 general election and specifically called out Republican candidate for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Cosgrove addressed the importance of the "repeal of Illinois' horrible and dangerous teen endangerment law, which those who are opposed to reproductive choice call mandated parental notice of abortion."
"Mr. Rauner likes to say he has 'no social agenda,' but his actions and statements around reproductive rights, as is the case with marriage equality, tell an entirely different story," Cosgrove said to WCT. "Bruce Rauner has a social agenda and it is a very frightening agenda. The mission of Personal PAC is to elect pro-choice leaders and candidates who understand that the definition of 'pro-choice' is that every woman in Illinois should have the exact same access to reproductive health care regardless of age, income or geography."
For more information, visit www.personalpac.org/ .