Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-05-23
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Renee Wsol: From Planned Parenthood patient to advocate
by David Thill

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

It's uncertain what the future holds for Planned Parenthood, but Renee Wsol isn't waiting to find out.

A single mother and a Medicaid beneficiary since 2012, Wsol, 34, of unincorporated Central Stickney in Stickney Township, feared the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress might cut Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding.

So, on Inauguration Day, she made an appointment to visit the organization's Orland Park clinic.

"Planned Parenthood offered me the flexibility I needed," she told Windy City Times. "I can go to any [Planned Parenthood clinic] I want….That's invaluable to me as someone who has to travel all over the city for my son's therapies." ( Wsol's four-year-old son has special needs. )

Since that February visit, Wsol has lobbied six U.S. representatives in Washington D.C. and traveled to Springfield to push for the passage of reproductive rights legislation at the state level. At press time, she was organizing a rally outside the office of her own U.S. representative, Dan Lipinski of Illinois' Third District—who received a 22 percent rating ( out of 100 ) on Planned Parenthood's 2017 Congressional Scorecard—in the hopes of convincing him to improve that score.

But she didn't anticipate doing all that when she made her appointment on Inauguration Day.

( In response to a request for comment, Lipinski wrote in part, in an email to Windy City Times, "I have and am willing to meet with any individual or group to talk about any matter related to the federal government….I encourage all of my constituents to continue reaching out to me about issues that are important to them." The congressman's full comments, including those regarding Planned Parenthood and LGBT issues, can be found below. )

From central Stickney to Washington, D.C.

Talking to the nurse during her initial visit to Planned Parenthood, Wsol expressed her fear that under the new administration, she and others like her would lose access to health care provisions like birth control. "I was just going on and on and on and on," she said. The nurse provided Wsol with contact information for Julie Lynn, manager of external affairs for Planned Parenthood's Illinois branch, who wanted to hear from patients like Wsol. Unsure of what to expect, Wsol reached out.

"I told [Lynn] I feel powerless," said Wsol. "All these terrible things are going to happen, and I think people don't think that they will. But they are [happening], and they're going to continue."

After hearing Wsol's story, Lynn invited her to a "lobby day" in Washington D.C. So, on March 1, Wsol, along with about 150 Planned Parenthood advocates and care providers from across the country, traveled to Washington—her first time in the nation's capital—and told her story to lawmakers.

Though she was nervous at first, Wsol soon found her footing, realizing that it was important to be direct in making her case.

"You can't afford to be shy" when talking to legislators, she said. And for anyone who is nervous before they start, "you're not going to be after you do it." She stays polite in her meetings with lawmakers, but she also keeps in mind one fact: "These people work for me, and they work for the other constituents in their district."

Constituents often feel like their voices don't matter, Wsol said. "But they do." She pointed out that many moderate Republican representatives refused to vote for repeal of the Affordable Care Act because of the pressure they felt from constituents. "We need to put the pressure on," she said.

But where should that pressure fall?

The push for HB40

"When we talk about 'defunding' Planned Parenthood, that means taking away Medicaid reimbursements" for the organization, Lynn, the Planned Parenthood of Illinois manager of external affairs, wrote in an email to Windy City Times. Over one-third of Planned Parenthood's 60,000 Illinois patients rely on Medicaid coverage, she said. That includes patients like Wsol.

Though the organization could potentially find itself in the crosshairs of April budget appropriation talks, multiple studies indicate that a large majority of Americans support continued Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. ( And as Lynn pointed out, Planned Parenthood provides more than just abortion services. )

Republican legislators, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, reportedly want to avoid the issue in budget talks, since that debate could lead to the kind of government shutdown the Republican-led government wants to avoid. But Planned Parenthood could then be targeted in an upcoming tax overhaul, which, as part of the Senate reconciliation process, would only need 51 votes in that chamber—and, therefore, no Democratic support—to become law.

But while uncertainty reigns at the national level, Wsol and others have taken their cause to the state capital.

During Wsol's trip to Springfield, organized by Illinois Women Moving Forward, she brought to lawmakers' attention HB40, originally introduced by Illinois Representative Sara Feigenholtz of the 12th district. The bill, which was approved by committee in February and is now up for a full House vote, removes language from the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 that proponents argue would criminalize abortion in Illinois should the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision be overturned.

"I really hope it goes through, but I'm not sure if it will," Wsol said of HB40. To help it get passed, she hopes voters lobby their lawmakers on behalf of the bill. And "if you can't get out there [in person], then make phone calls," she said.

"It's not scary; it's not intimidating. Nobody's going to yell at you," she said. She emphasized that legislators don't expect constituents to be experts on the law. And if voters do face questions they can't answer, resources are available to help them find those answers, including organizational policy experts. ( At Planned Parenthood of Illinois, that person is Brigid Leahy, director of legislation. )

"This is all we can do," said Wsol. "We have this, and we have 2018," she added, referring to the congressional midterm elections. Voters' action now, she said, "paves the road" for what happens then.

Comments from Daniel Lipinski, Democratic representative of Illinois' Third U.S. district

In response to a request for comment from Windy City Times, Daniel Lipinski, U.S. representative of Illinois' third congressional district, wrote the following in an email:

"I have and am willing to meet with any individual or group to talk about any matter related to the federal government. Regarding Planned Parenthood specifically, it was the focus of much of my well-attended Town Hall earlier this year and I recently met with several smaller groups of PP supporters at my offices in the district. In addition, I had a good meeting with Equality Illinois just a few days ago, and I will continue to talk with them and others about how we can work together on issues important to the LGBTQ community.

"My constituents know that I'm very accessible to them and am always interested in hearing their thoughts and views. I represent 812,000 people and not everyone is going to agree with every vote I cast. Sometimes people believe that if I don't vote the way they would like me to vote on a particulate ( sic ) issue that I am not hearing their voice. That is not the case. I encourage all of my constituents to continue reaching out to me about issues that are important to them."

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Federal Court Rules for Pennsylvania School District's Trans-Inclusive Policy 2018-05-25 - WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ( LGBTQ ) civil ...

Gay News

Ramirez-Rosa blasts Latino Caucus expulsion 2018-05-23 - Openly gay Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa ( 35th Ward ) has denounced a May 23 decision to expel him made by the City Council's ...

Gay News

City Club of Chicago plans "Chicago and Its LGBTQ Community" Jun 19 2018-05-23 - The City Club of Chicago will host a "Chicago and Its LGBTQ Community" panel on Jun 19. The event will be moderated ...

Gay News

Trump-Pence Administration Proposes Nationwide Gag Rule on Abortion Referrals 2018-05-23 - WASHINGTON D.C. — Tonight, the Trump-Pence administration released a nationwide gag rule, marking a radical departure from how health care has operated in ...

Gay News

HRC, Lawyers' Committee seek investigation of anti-transgender Incident in California 2018-05-23 - WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization and ...

Gay News

State rep alleges retaliations from Madigan's allies 2018-05-23 - Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy ( D-Chicago )—who, this past winter, spoke publicly about sexual-harassment allegations in House Speaker Michael Madigan's political operations—is ...

Gay News

LGBT victories in Tuesday's voting 2018-05-23 - There was big news out of Texas Tuesday night. Lupe Valdez won the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas in a run-off primary ...

Gay News

Court Strikes Unlawful Policy That Denied Health Care to Incarcerated Transgender Woman 2018-05-23 - ( St. Louis, MO, May 23, 2018 ) —A federal district court has struck down a Missouri Department of Corrections ( MDOC ) ...

Gay News

Non-binary support group to meet May 23 2018-05-23 - Two nonbinary community members are facilitating a support group for adults who identify as nonbinary and is interested in attending a two-hour meeting ...

Gay News

AFC releases HIV/HCV Drug Guide 2018-05-23 - AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) has released its HIV and Hepatitis C Drug Guide. Each year, AFC conducts a review of ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.