‘I Was Raped, and I Had an Abortion’: Three Representatives Told Powerful Stories to Their Colleagues in Congress

It’s been a challenging few months for abortion rights in the U.S., with Texas—the second most populous state in the country—effectively outlawing abortion after the six-week mark in early September and Mississippi seeming poised to follow it. On Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform addressed the divisive issue with a panel titled “A Dire State: Examining the Urgent Need to Protect and Expand Abortion Rights and Access in the United States.” Coupled with testimony from Representative Kat Cammack, a Republican from Florida, about how she “would not be here” had her mother followed a doctor’s advice to end her pregnancy were moving stories from Democratic representatives Cori Bush (Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), and Barbara Lee (Calif.) about their own abortions.

“In the summer of 1994, I was raped, I became pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion,” said Bush, explaining that she lived through an experience of sexual assault while on a church trip at age 17. “To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions and will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of.” Jayapal noted that she sought out her own abortion when she was a young mother of a sick child attempting to deal with postpartum depression; her doctor told her that carrying a second child to term would be risky for both her and the baby. “I very much wanted to have more children, but I simply could not imagine going through that again,” Jayapal told the panel. Lee’s pregnancy occurred before abortion was even legal in the U.S., so her mother sent her to a friend in Texas who arranged for a “back alley” procedure at a clinic in Mexico. “A lot of girls and women in my generation didn’t make it—they died from unsafe abortions,” she said. “In the 1960s, unsafe septic abortions were the primary killer of African American women.”

Hopefully, as Democrats seek to codify Roe v. Wade, the rest of this country’s predominantly male lawmakers can be as courageous in protecting women’s reproductive rights as Bush, Jayapal, and Lee were in discussing their own extremely personal experiences with abortion.

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