Reps. Bush, Jayapal and Lee share personal abortion stories ahead of December Roe v. Wade challenge
The testimonies came during a recent House Oversight Committee hearing on reproductive rights.
On Thursday, Sept. 30, Democratic lawmakers shared their personal abortion stories at a House Oversight Committee meeting concerning reproductive rights.
The hearing evaluated Texas’ SB8 law, that bans abortions after six weeks and permits private citizens to sue anyone accused of having one or aiding someone in obtaining the procedure.
The Supreme Court decided earlier this month not to block the law. It will be hearing arguments on Dec. 1 that could challenge the Roe v. Wade decision, another vital moment that has brought conversations around reproductive rights to the forefront.
Representatives Cori Bush, Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal testified during the committee hearing and shared details about their experiences.
During her testimony, Lee described having to go through the terrifying process of traveling to a “back-alley clinic” in Mexico with a family friend to receive the procedure, in the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S. She was only 16 at the time.
“I was one of the lucky ones, Madam Chair. A lot of girls and women in my generation died from unsafe abortions. My personal experience shaped my beliefs to fight for people’s reproductive freedom,” Lee said.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) speaks about her abortion as a teenager in the mid-1960s.
“I was raised in El Paso, Texas, and attended Catholic school. So, of course, growing up, sex education was non-existent.... And because of that, I honestly wasn't sure how you got pregnant.”
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) September 30, 2021
Lee, who is now a mother of two sons and a grandmother of five, said that although she shared her story during the hearing, she doesn’t believe these decisions are anyone’s business, especially not the business of politicians.
Lee hoped that her story would help to reduce the stigma surrounding reproductive care and highlight the real risks of the country turning back to the days before Roe v. Wade.
After going through intense postpartum depression and suicidal ideation after a previous pregnancy, Jayapal said she also decided to terminate a pregnancy.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal: "After discussions with my partner, who was completely supportive of whatever choice I made, I decided to have an abortion...for me, terminating my pregnancy was not an easy choice, the most difficult I've made in my life, but it was my choice." pic.twitter.com/YYVogXGNe2
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 30, 2021
“For me, terminating my pregnancy was not an easy choice — the most difficult I’ve made in my life. But it was my choice, and that is what must be preserved for every pregnant person,” Jayapal said.
Bush, who also told her story in a Vanity Fair interview and at a rally earlier in the month, discussed her choice to have the procedure following a sexual assault that happened when she was a minor.
Shortly after her high school graduation in the Summer of 1994, a 17-year-old Bush attended a church trip to Jackson, Mississippi. While on the trip, she met a 20-year-old man through mutual friends.
The two of them flirted and he asked to visit her room. She invited him in, expecting that they would simply talk and laugh. But instead, she was sexually assaulted, leaving her confused, embarrassed and blaming herself.
A few months later, when Bush noticed her period never came, she tried reaching out to the man, but she never heard from him. She later found out that she was nine weeks pregnant and began to panic.
“Choosing to 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," adding that it was liberating to know she had options.
Bush took a moment to acknowledge fellow Black girls and women who have gone through something similar and face discrimination in health care.
To all the Black women and girls who have had or will have abortions — know this: We have nothing to be ashamed of. We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us.
But we deserve better.
We demand better.
We are worthy of better. pic.twitter.com/lZkpucCQ9v
— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) September 30, 2021
“To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions 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,” she said.