Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) shared their abortion stories on Wednesday, a day before a congressional hearing on access to the procedure, which is under increasing threat.
In an interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday evening on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut with Joy Reid,” Jayapal spoke about getting pregnant after her first “incredibly difficult pregnancy,” after which she gave birth to her child, Janak, who was premature and not expected to live. Jayapal experienced postpartum depression and contemplated suicide.
“There was no way I could have another baby at that time,” Jayapal told NBC News. “I spoke to the person who became my husband, my loving partner at the time. He was completely supportive and I decided to have an abortion.”
Jayapal, who first disclosed that she had an abortion in 2019, added: “We’ve got to tell the truth about our experiences, so that we can come to the right policy solutions, and so that we can actually move us forward and not backwards.”
On Thursday, Jayapal, Bush and Lee will testify about their personal experiences with abortion before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a hearing examining the threat to abortion rights and access in states across the country.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court allowed a law that effectively bans abortions after the sixth week of a pregnancy — the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation — to go into effect in Texas.
And in December, the nation’s highest court will hear arguments in a Mississippi abortion case that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that protects a person’s right to abortion in the U.S.
Bush also shared her abortion story, telling NBC News that at age 17 she was raped by a man several years older than her on a church trip. When she found out she was pregnant, she “just knew that I wasn’t ready for a child.”
“I was able to get the services that I need because they were available, and I didn’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops,” Bush said. “I had enough anguish, I had so much going on that I didn’t need all these other things in the way of me getting services.”
In a release from Bush’s office, the congresswoman said she was coming forward with her story now because it was a “critical moment in the push for every person’s right to choose.”
When abortion access is restricted, poor people and people of color are disproportionately affected.
Lee warned that laws being passed to restrict abortion access now could “take us back” to the days before Roe v. Wade — a time that she knows from her own experience.
Lee got pregnant in the 1960s at age 16, before Roe was decided. A friend of her mother’s connected her to a doctor in Mexico, who provided abortion care in a “back alley clinic,” Bush told NBC News.
“I’ll never forget that night. I was terrified,” Lee said. “I survived, and why it’s so important now for me to tell the story is: I don’t want any woman to ever have to go to through that.”
“As hard as it is, I want people to know that we’re at the brink now of going back to those days where women die, especially Black women and women of color,” she added. “And so this is a wake up call.”