Actor/activist Jane Fonda, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker were among those who took place in Personal PAC's Oct. 21 virtual luncheon.
The reproductive-rights organization's principal fundraising event, usually held each fall, took place online because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants this year were frank in their pessimism about women's access to reproductive healthcare continuing nationally, given the then-imminent confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom advocates assume will oppose abortion access. (Coney Barrett was sworn in Oct. 26.)
"The 'antis' [anti-choice activists] are playing a long game, and we need to as well," noted Personal PAC Board Chair Eileen Dordek. "I don't fear the antis as much as I fear complacency."
Dordek also acknowledged that the historic Roe v. Wade decision has never guaranteed equitable access for reproductive options across the U. S. Women in numerous states face draconian requirements should they choose an abortion, including waiting periods and government-mandated lectures from medical personnel.
Participants in the Oct. 21 event said they want to see Illinois be a "safe harbor" in the Midwest should Roe v. Wade be overturned. That prospect is all the more likely thanks to the Reproductive Health Act, signed by Pritzker in 2019, which established that a woman has a fundamental right to an abortion. In his remarks, the governor said that signing the legislation was one of his "proudest moments" while in office.
Seventeen states have so-called "trigger-laws" immediately outlawing abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Illinois had such a law as well, but its tenets were cancelled by the HB40 legislation signed in 2017. The Reproductive Health Act formally repealed the law.
"We can't be foolish or naive for just one second that the road ahead won't be incredibly difficult," said Personal PAC CEO Terry Cosgrove.
He and Dordek emphasized the need to expand the Democratic majority in the Illinois General Assembly to ensure that future anti-choice legislation fails. Over two dozen such bills are currently before the legislature in some form.
Clinton noted, "There are more anti-choice candidates than ever before running for the Illinois General Assembly."
Fonda presented longtime civil- and women's-rights activist Heather Booth with Personal PAC's Irving Harris Award. Among Booth's accomplishments was the founding of the Jane Collective, which provided counseling and abortion services prior Roe v. Wade.
In her thanks, Booth said she "thought she was doing a good deed" and was "not looking to organize" at the time. She and Fonda have both recently been involved in environmental activism, and were arrested alongside one another in 2019.
Fonda, who said "she grew up in privilege and continues to live in privilege" recalled helping boarding-school classmates get information about obtaining abortions overseas when she was growing up, emphasizing her experience simply points to reproductive-access historically being an issue for women in all socio-economic strata.
"We have to make it safe for everyone, not just those who are privileged," added Fonda.
"If we organize, we can change this worldbut only if we organize," Booth said.
Among those also honored at the Oct. 21 event were former state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who was presented with Personal PAC's Leadership Award by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. Hutchinson began volunteering with Planned Parenthood while still in college, leading to a lifelong commitment to fighting for reproductive rights.
"This fight is bigger than both of us and it's going to require all of us," Hutchinson told Foxx.
Activist Cecile Richards also presented Brian Howard, who heads Planned Parenthood Arizona, with a Personal PAC Leadership Award.