A recent reproductive rights protest in downtown Chicago. (Source: Dominique Robinson/Shutterstock)

This article is the fourth in a five-part series, by News is Out member publications, looking at Roe v. Wade and its impacts on the LGBTQ+ community. 

By Matt Simonette, Windy City Times

The only aspect of U. S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion attacking Roe v. Wade that surprised longtime abortion-rights activist Terry Cosgrove is that anyone else was surprised by it. 

“Donald Trump said he would appoint people who would overturn Roe v. Wade,” Cosgrove told Windy City Times. “People are surprised, but he did exactly what he said he was going to do.”

Cosgrove, who identifies as gay, has been the president and CEO of the abortion-rights organization Personal PAC for 33 years. In that time, Illinois has become one of the only states in the Midwest with secure rights for people looking to obtain abortions. 

“They’re just getting started with overturning Roe.”

Terry Cosgrove

But Cosgrove warned that right-wing elements will not be finished attacking the rights of marginalized groups after the anti-abortion opinion is officially released. 

“If you go to their websites, they have how an IUD is a murder weapon that kills a baby, and how a birth control pill kills a baby,” he said. “They call it a chemical murder.”

Allies have suggested to Cosgrove that politicians would never interfere with birth control access, but Cosgrove cautioned that reversing abortion access once seemed unthinkable in the mainstream as well.

“I say, ‘OK: Don’t believe me, but they’ve now done this once already,’” he added.

Personal PAC CEO Terry Cosgrove. (Photo courtesy of Cosgrove)

Cosgrove further warned that LGBTQ+ rights will undoubtedly be on the right-wing radar. “There is nothing that you can give to these people to make them say, “You know what? We’ve done enough. … They’re just getting started with overturning Roe.”

He added: “I’ve had a front-row seat to how horrible, violent and uninterested in human rights the other side is. Over my professional life, I’ve seen 11 people, mostly doctors, gunned down in cold blood. I have seen the arsons, and the death threats that I get at my office.”

Anti-gay sentiment from the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis still resonates for him as well. He remembers right-wing elements loudly wishing death from AIDS on gay men.

“If you don’t take that seriously, then I don’t know what you think that they’re going to take seriously,” he said. “If you think that there’s someplace that they’re going to stop, then you are living on a different planet.”

“What can I say? It’s pro-choice or no choice.”

Terry Cosgrove

Personal PAC’s specific mission is supporting Illinois politicians who specifically state that they support abortion-rights. Promising “not to touch abortion-rights” is not sufficient to gain the organization’s endorsement or escape their opposition. 

Cosgrove and Personal PAC have been criticized by state political insiders for a no-holds barred approach—candidates who do not return Personal PAC’s questionnaire run the risk of being labeled anti-choice.

Cosgrove is unapologetic, and noted that each page of the questionnaire warned candidates that failure to return the form would result in that designation. 

“What can I say? It’s pro-choice or no choice,” he said, noting that so many pro-choice conservatives wishing to quietly support abortion rights ultimately failed in various to prevent their anti-choice colleagues from implementing or proposing draconian punishments for women seeking abortions. 

“Pro-choice means that someone has the right to choose an abortion,” he said. “I agree 1000% if someone isn’t comfortable having an abortion, they shouldn’t have one. My calling card is: Not every pregnancy needs to be planned, but every child deserves to be loved and cared for. I wish more anti-choice would adopt that motto and focus on providing the care that every single human being needs.” 

Cosgrove announced recently that he would be stepping down from his post next January, and he is helping Personal PAC gradually undergo the transition to new leadership. 

“On Jan. 6, I am going to be 70 years old, and it’s time,” he said. “I just feel that with a lot of the changes and the future outlook of what’s going on in the abortion-rights movement and LGBTQ movements, other people need to step forward and take a leadership role.” 

While Cosgrove is not sanguine about the ideological trajectory the current U.S. Supreme Court can lay out for the nation, he is not convinced that Americans cannot flex their political voices to reverse that trajectory either. He maintains that apathy, frustration and isolation are the emotions really hindering citizens wishing to make societal changes. 

He explained that concerned voters need to both donate to organizations supporting candidates in favor of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights and volunteer for those candidates.

“Winners make policy and losers make noise,” Cosgrove said. “I wish everyone who marched would then volunteer to work in the campaign of a [supportive candidate] to make sure that they got elected, because that’s the only way we’re going to solve the problem. People are going to have to donate their time, and their money, and they’re going to have to get very, very serious.”