For 30 years, the nonpartisan organization Personal PAC has been successfully working toward a society where reproductive justice is the law of the land across Illinois.
To celebrate this milestone, Personal PAC will be holding a roast Saturday, March 7, 7-10 p.m., at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 688 N. Milwaukee Ave., to honor founder Marcie Love and former board chairs Jerry Newton and Melissa Widen, with Illinois Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer and former state Sen. Toi Hutchinson serving as the emcee. Additionally, Personal PAC will be noting Terry Cosgrove's 30 years as the organization's CEO.
Cosgrove's journey to Personal PAC began when he moved back to Chicago in 1987 and joined the board of pro-choice organization Illinois NARAL, where he met Love.
"I am not sure Marcie and I knew what to make of each other then, but her deep commitment to reproductive justice and political sense fit with what I thought was needed, which was winning elections and changing laws," Cosgrove told Windy City Times. "In 1989, when it became clear the U.S. Supreme Court was open to dangerous restrictions on abortion, the pro-choice leaders of Illinois agreed that Marcie and Personal PAC should lead the unified political strategy to fighting all the horrible anti-choice laws that were being introduced and passed in Springfield."
Love said when they decided to hire an executive director and find an office the search committee narrowed their choices to three peopleone of whom was Cosgrove.
"Terry was, by far, the best candidate," said Love. "After many, many discussions and all of us agonizing, we hired him. I took so much grief for hiring a man. But hiring Terry was one of the two best decisions I have ever made, the other was saying yes to my husband's proposal."
Cosgrove said that when he called his father to tell him about accepting the job despite the fact that the organization had no office or phones or computer and hardly any money, he said, "Terry, are you crazy?" and "I responded, 'Dad, have you met me?'" and "Here I am 30-plus years later."
Personal PAC is, according to its website, "dedicated to protecting and advancing reproductive rights for all women by recruiting, electing and holding accountable pro-choice candidates to state and local office in Illinois."
Cosgrove said Personal PAC has been critical in transforming Illinois from one of the most anti-choice states in the nation to one of the most pro-choice states by raising money to win elections for as many pro-choice candidates as possible.
"It takes 30 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, 60 votes in the House and one governor to sign or veto," said Cosgrove. "If the right wing has the votes, they win. If we have them, we win."
In terms of the most challenging part of getting pro-choice legislation passed in the Illinois General Assembly, Cosgrove said it is getting legislators and candidates to understand that "the anti-choice movement is a small, albeit dedicated, very noisy group of people intent on keeping women second class citizens."
Love said that during her time on the board she was most proud of helping elect 18 pro-choice Republicans in the 1990s because she always felt this should be a nonpartisan issue.
"Another was getting birth control covered by insurance," said Love. "Viagra yes; birth control pill, no. And, as I got involved in this issue because women of means could get an abortion but not poor women, finally getting abortion services paid so poor women could have access."
Newton said "Personal PAC's ability to educate voters and influence them in considering reproductive justice in their voting decisions has been an evolution. Now we are on the cusp of being the most pro-choice state once we repeal the dangerous and punitive Parental Notice of Abortion ( PNA ) law. Requiring parental notice for a teenager's abortion is a violation of that teenager's human rights. That is not who we are and the law must be repealed."
"Thirty years of fighting for reproductive justice has gotten us to the strong place where we are today in Illinois," said Personal PAC Board Chair Eileen Dordek. "We must maintain our laser-focus and elect pro-choice champions every two years to ensure access to reproductive healthcare into the future."
Cosgrove said there were two important pieces of pro-choice legislation that got passed that have meant the most to him personallywhen the Cook County board restored abortion services at Cook County Hospital and Illinois House Bill 40 that removed the 1977 restriction on Medicaid funding for abortion care.
"I am looking forward to the day when the dangerous PNA law is repealed because it puts the health and lives of pregnant teenagers at risk," said Cosgrove.
In addition to his work at Personal PAC, Cosgrove has been an activist and ally of the LGBTQ community for decades. He received the Equality Illinois Freedom Award in 2017 and was inducted into Chicago's LGBT Hall of Fame in 2014.
"LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights are intertwined because both are about people being able to control their lives and bodies," said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove said the stakes are sky high right now because "we can lose everything in one election. Just look at 2016. There is never a time when we can afford to not be fully engaged. Roe v. Wade is about to be overturned, and with it likely marriage equality, as the foundation of equal marriage is the Roe decision."
He told Windy City Times that the most effective way to fight back is by voting for candidates in the March 17 Illinois primary and the Nov. 3 general election who have committed to reproductive justice, every marginalized community's equality and climate justice.
"People often ask how I survive doing this work for so many years and I say, being around people who have great senses of humor," said Cosgrove. "I take my work very seriously, but not myself. The roast is going to be about the serious work and accomplishments of Personal PAC, but it is going to be a night of celebration and great humor. I cannot wait to hear the roasts of our three former chairs, and maybe even get in a comment or two of my own."
To purchase tickets for the March 7 event, visit PersonalPAC.org/events .