Congresswomen Share Their Experiences With Abortion During Hearing: ‘We Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of’
Rep. Cori Bush said she had to get an abortion as an 18-year-old in 1994 after being raped.
October 01, 2021 at 2:50 pm
It was an emotional scene on Thursday when three congresswomen shared their personal abortion stories at a congressional hearing on reproductive rights. The three women, Cori Bush, Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee, delivered their testimonies after Texas recently passed a law that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, Yahoo News reports.
Sharing their own stories, the representatives hoped to help lawmakers understand the consequences of stringent abortion legislation.
Bush said she had to get an abortion as an 18-year-old in 1994 when she became pregnant after being raped by an older boy she met on a church trip to Jackson, Mississippi. The Missouri representative recalled details of the incident, saying the boy asked if he could come to the room she was staying in with a friend. Bush said she allowed the boy to come in, thinking they would stay up and talk.
"The next thing I knew, he was on top of me,” she said. “I was frozen in shock as his weight pressed down upon me. When he was done, he got up, he pulled up his pants and without a word he left. That was it.”
As the boy left and never spoke to her again, the teen was overcome with shame.
“I was confused, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed,” she said.
When she missed her period and realized that she was pregnant, Bush didn't feel ready to raise a child on her own. That's when she decided to make the difficult decision to get an abortion.
“Choosing to have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made,” Bush said. “But at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me.”
When she first went to the abortion clinic, Bush learned that she was nine weeks pregnant.
"There, the panic set in," she said.
The lawmaker also recalled a conversation she heard at the abortion clinic, noting she heard the staff saying, “They ruined their life and that’s what they do."
"‘They’ being Black girls like us,” the Missouri legislator explained.
Sending a message to "all the Black women and girls who have had abortions and will have abortions," Bush said, "We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us,” the congresswoman said. "We deserve better. We demand better. We are worthy of better. That's why I'm here to tell my story. So today, I sit before you as that nurse, as that pastor, as that activist, that survivor, that single mom, that congresswoman, to testify that in the summer of 1994 I was raped, I became pregnant and I chose to have an abortion."
Lee, an El Paso, Texas, native, said she became pregnant at age 16 and decided to get an abortion, traveling to a “back-alley clinic” in Mexico to complete the operation.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” the California representative said. “A lot of women in my generation didn’t make it. They died from unsafe abortions. In the 1960s, unsafe septic abortions were the primary killer of African American women.”
Jayapal said she experienced “severe” postpartum depression and contemplated suicide after facing a difficult pregnancy during her first marriage. The lawmaker later divorced and became pregnant when she met the man who is now her husband. But Jayapal still feared the possibility of experiencing another difficult pregnancy.
“I simply could not imagine going through that again,” she said.
After speaking with doctors, the congresswoman learned that any pregnancy would be a high risk for both her and the child.
“I decided to have an abortion,” Jayapal said. “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.”
Congresswomen shared their deeply personal abortion experiences during a committee hearing on state laws limiting women's access to the procedure pic.twitter.com/TPXjb2XP5s
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) September 30, 2021
As Blavity previously reported, the latest highly criticized policy in Texas imposes punishments on abortion providers, as well as people who seek abortions and those who drive people to receive an abortion.