When U.S. Representative Cori Bush stood on the steps of St. Louis' Old Courthouse weeks ago in solidarity with protestors who were fighting against Texas’ new law prohibiting abortions after six weeks, she looked out into the sea of her constituents and told a story. A story of a girl who had an abortion after being raped, who was told she wouldn’t amount to anything, but went on to become a member of Congress.
That girl was her.
Bush had never told that story to the public before. Today, the Missouri Democrat recounted the full story in front of a panel for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The hearing, titled “A State of Crisis: Examining the Urgent Need to Protect and Expand Abortion Rights and Access,” examines threats to abortion access and how the threats “disproportionately harm communities that already experience health disparities,” according to the committee's website. The hearing also aims to address “the urgent need for federal action to protect and expand abortion rights and access.”
The panel is made up of several members of Congress. Bush joined Representatives Barbara Lee (D-California) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) in sharing their abortion stories.
Bush said she was raped in 1994 by a boy she met on a church trip to Mississippi, discovering she was pregnant weeks later at eighteen years old after a missed period. Wiping tears away, Bush recounted how she felt after being told she was pregnant.
She didn’t know how she could make a pregnancy work at her young age, and the person who raped her was not responding to her calls about the pregnancy. Her lifelong dream of college to become a nurse was out of the question because of finances, and she definitely couldn’t afford a child. Bush said she worried how her parents would react.
“My dad was a proud father, always bragging about his little girl and how he knew I would go straight to college and become attorney general, his goal for me,” Bush said. “So with no scholarship intact and college out of the foreseeable future, I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing my dad again. It was a decision I had to make for myself, so I did.”
Bush detailed her experience of receiving the abortion, saying how the counselors who spoke to her before the procedure told her she would end up on welfare and food stamps, whereas the white women in the room had counselors telling them how bright their futures would be.
Afterward, Bush said she felt alone but resolved in her decision. Having an abortion was “the toughest decision” she had ever made, she said, but “at eighteen years old, I knew it was the right decision for me — it was freeing knowing I had options.”
“To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions or will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We live in a society that has failed to legislate love, so we deserve better. We demand better,” Bush said.
Lee recounted her story of having an abortion in a “back-alley clinic” in Mexico in a pre-Roe v. Wade world. Jayapal informed the panel of the circumstances that led to her choice to have an abortion. Speaking on the opposite side of the issue, Representative Kat Cammack (R-Florida) told the committee her mother almost aborted her after doctors told her mom her pregnancy was high risk, but she ultimately decided against it.
The hearing comes just before women are expected to protest abortion bans in large numbers across the country this Saturday. Members of the committee pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a direct challenge to Roe in December. Missouri's Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently debating an eight-week abortion ban.
You can watch today's full hearing on YouTube.
Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
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