History: Personal PAC History of Protecting Women's Health

A History of Stopping Dangerous, Illegal Abortions in Illinois

Since its founding, Personal PAC has turned back over 100-years of dangerous and misogynist laws.

For most of its history, Illinois was one of the most anti-choice states in America. Abortions were punished harshly, and regulations on abortions pushed women deeper and deeper into more dangerous situations. Personal PAC has fought against restrictions on reproductive rights, turning the tide and making Illinois a safe haven for women in the Midwest.

The Story of HB 40

Marcie Love was among the first to understand the importance of protecting reproductive health care and abortion rights at the state level. On October 1, 1989, she opened the Personal PAC office, hired Terry Cosgrove, and began putting her heart and soul into saving the lives of an untold number of Illinois’ women and girls who would have otherwise suffered at the hands of anti-abortion legislators and Governors. 

As Founding Chair, and now Chair Emerita, Marcie recognized, before the pundits and other leaders across the country, that the most serious battles against reproductive rights would take place in the 50 state legislatures.

Since 1989, one state after another has imposed horrendous restrictions on access to abortion, shut down hundreds of family planning clinics, and terrorized millions of women—mostly low-income, young, and rural women. To this day, no other state has its own “Personal PAC” focused solely on electing pro-choice candidates at the state level.

The 2010 elections were a turning point for reproductive rights in Illinois. With an increased attack on abortion rights on the federal level and severe loses in many states around the country, Illinois, with the help of Personal PAC, was one of the few states to re-elect its pro-choice Governor and a new, pro-choice Lt. Governor.

While the number of anti-choice state legislators elected elsewhere increased dramatically, the Illinois General Assembly remained stable. The election of a new pro-choice Cook County Board President and a majority of Cook County Commissioners who were committed to protecting abortion rights was a significant victory for reproductive rights in the largest Illinois county.

The 2012 elections were the most significant in over a decade. Under a newly drawn legislative map, EVERY House and Senate district was up for re-election. Anti-choice candidates were geared up to run in these new districts across the entire state. Personal PAC’s biggest challenge leading up to the 2012 elections was to recruit and elect pro-choice candidates in a majority of these districts. Thanks to the financial support of its donors, Personal PAC spent an unprecedented amount of money to elect the most pro-choice senate in Illinois history. The House of Representatives, while not solidly pro-choice, inched much closer in 2012 and built on that success in 2014 and 2016 with the addition of more pro-choice legislators.

House Bill 40 became law in 2017, expanding access to abortion care by removing restrictions on Medicaid coverage. HB 40 also removed the “trigger” provision in Illinois abortion law, ensuring that abortion will remain legal in Illinois regardless of what happens to Roe v. Wade.

In 2019 the Illinois Reproductive Health Act (RHA) went into effect, which modernized Illinois’ abortion laws by repealing outdated and unenforceable prohibitions that criminalized termination of an unwanted pregnancy. This update to Illinois’ laws gave women fundamental rights to make decisions about their own reproductive health care, including maternity and abortion care. 

The 2020 election helped secure the pro-choice majority in both the House and Senate. Every single Senator who voted for the RHA and HB 40 won their races—demonstrating that supporting common sense reproductive healthcare legislation is good policy and good politics!

During October’s veto session in 2021, the General Assembly passed the Youth Health and Safety Act, which repealed Illinois’ dangerous PNA law. This repeal certified Illinois as the 14th state without dangerous mandated parental involvement laws, which put the health and lives of young people at risk every single day. Illinois is the only state to have legislatively restored Medicaid funding for abortion, and now is the only state to repeal a parental involvement law.

Personal PAC is committed to building the next generation of leaders who will continue the work of protecting and expanding reproductive rights in Illinois for ALL women into the next decade and beyond.

Personal PAC Annual Awards Luncheon

In 1994, Gloria Steinem was the featured speaker at Personal PAC’s first Annual Awards Luncheon, raising its visibility in Illinois and nationwide.  Jane Fonda has spoken at two of the organization’s luncheons and was presented with Personal PAC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Other past speakers included:

  • Dr. Joycelyn Elders
  • Former U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder
  • Molly Ivins
  • Kathleen Turner
  • Rita Moreno
  • Judy Collins
  • Olympia Dukakis
  • Alfre Woodard
  • Kathy Najimy
  • Cynthia Nixon
  • Sandra Bernhard
  • Meredith Baxter
  • Gloria Allred
  • U. S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Ellen Burstyn
  • Joy Reid
  • Gov. Jennifer Granholm
  • Cecile Richards
  • U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock

Irving B. Harris Spirit of Choice Award

Personal PAC established the Irving B. Harris Spirit of Choice Award in 2005 to honor the commitment of the late Irving Harris to reproductive rights and Personal PAC during his lifetime.

Since its creation, the award has been given to the following champions of reproductive rights:

2005 – Harriet Meyer
2006 – Leo Smith
2007 – Marcie Love
2008 – Phyllis Glink
2009 – Dr. George Tiller
2010 – Hannah Rosenthal
2011 – Pam Sutherland
2012 – Marj Benton
2013 – Bette Cerf Hill
2014 – Anat Hoffman
2015 – Joint Action Committee (JAC)
2016 – Judy Gold
2017 – Tina Tchen
2018 – Men4Choice
2019 – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
2020 – Heather Booth & the Jane Collective
2021 – Hon. Heather Steans  



A History Of Abortion Rights In Illinois


Abortion is made illegal in Illinois from time of conception, the first such law on the books.

1920s and 30s

Medical advances make abortions safer but lead to a fiercer crackdown.


Police crackdown on abortions with cruel measures, conducting raids and forcing abortion deeper underground, with deadly results and ruined lives. Learn More.


Illinois abortion law ruled unconstitutional.


Roe v Wade becomes the law of the land, creating legal abortion in every state. This protects women from dangerous illegal abortions, but also triggers a backlash in Illinois. Read more about the horrors of the Cook County septic abortion ward. 


Personal PAC founded.


Illinois Abortion Law Introduces Trigger Language that will make abortion illegal as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned.


Healthcare funding for abortion can no longer be used for state employees, making it harder to find an affordable abortion.


Abortions banned at Cook County hospitals. This is especially cruel for low-income and minority women who rely on county hospitals.


Emergency contraceptives are finally allowed to be used in state and county hospitals in rape cases.

Abortion services restored in Cook County hospitals.


US Senate eliminates rape and incest exemptions on abortion bans, an act of almost immeasurable cruelty.


Gov. Quinn signs a groundbreaking law requiring all schools in the state that teach sex education to include accurate information about birth control and STDs.


Groundbreaking birth control law passed ensuring that prescription birth control will be covered in insurance plans, defying right-wing activists stripping it from other women.


Illinois Patients Right of Conscience law ensures patients will be informed about how medical treatments they want or need might conflict with doctors’ and hospitals’ religious beliefs and not rejected outright.


HB40 introduced, eliminating trigger language. After Gov. Rauner threatened a veto, public pressure led by Personal PAC forced him to honor his initial pledge to sign.

Jan. 1, 2018

HB 40 goes into effect.


The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) becomes law, modernizing Illinois’ abortion law by repealing enjoined, unconstitutional prohibitions that criminalized abortion.


The Illinois Youth Health and Safety Act is passed, repealing the Parental Notice of Abortion (PNA) law and with it the last of the existing anti-choice statutes in Illinois.

We won’t let the misogynists win.

Help Us Keep Illinois the Safe Haven For Choice in the Midwest

For every step forward we take, the forces of reaction try to drag us three steps back. With your support, and your help, we’ll keep fighting against the relentless assault on women’s reproductive rights. Let’s keep making history, together.

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