These Congresswomen Shared Abortion Stories That Shouldn’t Need To Be Told

The House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing Thursday on abortion rights in response to the wave of anti-abortion laws instituted across the country.

Three Democratic women — Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Barbara Lee of California — all shared their personal stories of having had abortions. In a just world, their testimony would not be necessary to guarantee fundamental human rights such as access to abortion for all.

Nonetheless, each offered powerful testimony that revealed the struggles of women – especially black and brown women – who seek reproductive care.

Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee and Cori Bush shared their experiences with abortion at a congressional hearing.Chelsea Stahl/MSNBC; Getty Images

Bush shared that she had an abortion at 18 after surviving a sexual assault.

“Choosing to have an abortion was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but at 18 I knew it was the right decision for me,” she said. “It was liberating to know that I had options.”

She denounced a society that shows insufficient love to black women:

To all black women and girls who have had and will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us. So we deserve better, we demand better, we deserve better.

Jayapal testified that she had an abortion that remained secret – from the public and her family – until 2019, when she shared the news in a New York Times op-ed.

She said she became pregnant despite taking daily birth control and knew the pregnancy would be ‘high risk’ for her and her child given complications from a previous pregnancy. She explained why she kept her abortion a secret for years:

As an immigrant from a culture that deeply values ​​children and in an American society that still stigmatizes abortion, suicide, and mental health needs, I felt a shame I never should have felt.

Lee described having to have an abortion in an “alley” in Mexico when she was 16 because she was too ashamed to have one in the United States.

“I share my story even though I really believe it’s personal and, really, nobody’s business,” she said. “And certainly none of the politicians’ business.”

She explained the difficulties of obtaining abortion care in a pre-Roe v. Wade, a time when many women and girls were forced to have abortions in dangerous circumstances.

“A lot of girls and women of my generation didn’t survive,” Lee said. “They died from unsafe abortions. … We keep seeing states try to take us back to the times I know so well.”

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