In an intimate op-ed for The New York Times on Thursday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) shed light on what it was like to have an abortion 22 years ago after doctors warned her that she might face a second high-risk pregnancy.
It is the first time the progressive Democrat has publicly discussed having an abortion.
“I have never spoken publicly about my abortion. In some ways, I have felt I should not have to, because it is an intensely personal decision,” Jayapal wrote. “But I have decided to speak about it now because I am deeply concerned about the intensified efforts to strip choice and constitutional rights away from pregnant people and the simplistic ways of trying to criminalize abortion.”
After doctors laid out the risks she’d face, considering her first high-risk pregnancy and the baby’s extreme preterm birth, Jayapal said she made a difficult decision.
“I decided I could not responsibly have the baby,” she said. “It was a heartbreaking decision, but it was the only one I was capable of making.”
Jayapal also made note of the spectrum of abortion stories that exist, such as the traumatic stories of rape survivors. But other abortions, she added, are “just the free exercise of a protected constitutional right.”
Jayapal, a mother and stepmother, didn’t mention specific legislation or states in her op-ed, but she did describe what it was like to live in a state that allows people, including those who aren’t wealthy, to make their own decisions when it comes to pregnancy and abortion.
“I am fortunate to live in a state where pregnant people’s right to make choices about their own bodies is protected, where so many less fortunate than me can still afford to have abortions, without encountering barriers like forced counseling and waiting periods,” she said.
While Jayapal said she doesn’t pass judgment on her colleagues in Congress who don’t personally believe in abortion, she urged them to allow others the right to have access to that type of health care.
“I ... do not begrudge lawmakers who are against abortion for themselves,” Jayapal wrote. “But as elected officials, they must commit to preserving the constitutionally protected right of others to choose.”