Abortion Activism On the Hill

U.S. Representatives Share their Personal Abortion Stories at Congressional Hearing

Several United States House Representatives, including Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), spoke at a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday about their personal decisions to get an abortion.

Rep. Cori Bush testified how she had been raped at 17 years old on a church trip, realized she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. This is one of the first times she has publicly shared her experience about getting an abortion.

“How could I make this work? How could I, at 18 years old and barely scraping by, support a child of my own? And I would have been on my own,” Rep. Bush said.

Bush described how she was shamed and discriminated against in a counseling session before the procedure as well. She made clear that now, she was no longer ashamed of her decision to get an abortion, and that it had been freeing to know she had options.

“Choosing the have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made, but at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me,” she said.

The House Oversight Committee hearing at which Rep. Bush testified aimed to assess the attack on abortion rights brought forth by state legislatures, spearheaded by Texas and the state’s recent six-week abortion ban.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal also testified about her experience getting an abortion. When Rep. Jayapal was a new mother with a sick child, she got pregnant again despite diligently using contraception. She was told that the second pregnancy put her and her fetus’s life at risk, and she chose to get an abortion. Rep. Jayapal has previously spoken out about her abortion experience.

“Two years ago, I decided to tell my story as a member of Congress because I was so deeply concerned about the abortion ban legislation that was coming out from states across the country. Today, I am testifying before you because I want you to know that there are so many different situations that people face making this choice,” she said.

Rep. Barbara Lee told her story of choosing to get an abortion as well. Rep. Lee became pregnant in high school before the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which made abortion legal in the U.S.

She described having to go to Mexico to seeking abortion care, where she risked her life having an unsafe abortion.

“I’m compelled to speak out because of the real risks of the clock being turned back to those days before Roe v. Wade, to the days when I was a teenager and had a back-alley abortion in Mexico,” Rep. Lee said. “A lot of girls and women in my generation didn’t make it—they died from unsafe abortions.”

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion rights at the federal level. However, the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate. House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) opened the hearing by calling on the Senate to pass the WHPA and on Congress to pass the EACH Act, which would expand federal health care coverage to include abortion care.

“To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions or will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Rep. Bush said. “We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us. So we deserve better. We demand better. We are worthy of better.”

Sources: CNN 9/30/21, New York Times 9/30/21; NPR 9/30/21

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