According to activist Gloria Steinem, the right to reproductive freedom "is at least as basic a freedom of speech or freedom of assembly, perhaps more so."
Nearly 1,500 community members attended Personal PAC's 2016 Annual Awards Luncheon Oct. 13 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, where Steinem was the keynote speaker.
She described the efforts of the religious right to curtail reproductive freedom and pronounced those as nothing less than efforts to control women's bodies.
"It is the first step in a hierarchy, rather than a democracy," Steinem said, adding that she foresaw a time when advocates take up opposition to that movement.
"The power of the state stops at our skins, male or female," she said. "I don't know what it will be called, but I think it will be our next legal principle."
Steinem spoke enthusiastically about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency and denounced Donald Trump as a "failure of a businessman and a successful con man."
She said trepidation for Clinton amongst many voters can be attributed to many people not really having the opportunity to engage with formidable women.
"We should remember that we were raised by female human beings, so the last time [many people] saw a powerful woman was when they were eight, and they feel regressed," Steinem said.
Steinem presented Personal PAC's Irving B. Harris Spirit of Choice Award to attorney and activist Judy Gold. Physician Melissa Gilliam was presented with the Pro-Choice Leadership Award by Eileen Dordek, while former state Rep. Julie Hamos was presented with the same award by Andrea Friedman.
In her remarks, Hamos thanked the LGBT community. "[The LGBT] movement took hold when members of the LGBT community stepped out of the shadows," she said. "That sent a powerful message to the pro-choice movement."
Personal PAC President and CEO Terry Cosgrove also spoke, recalling a time when Cook County Hospital kept 17 beds in a "septic abortion ward," and warned, "Make no mistake: This is an era that anti-abortion forces want us to return to."
Other speakers at the event included U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Personal PAC Board Chair Melissa Widen and event co-chairs Meredith Bluhm-Wolf and Leslie Bluhm.