Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Thursday publicly shared for the first time that she had an abortion more than two decades ago, arguing in a New York Times opinion piece that lawmakers “must commit” to protecting a woman’s right to obtain a legal abortion.
“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,” Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat, wrote in the opinion piece about her abortion, which she said she had 22 years ago.
The congresswoman said she made the decision because she “could not tempt fate again” after prematurely delivering her child, Janak, whose birth she called a “miracle.”
“It had to be my choice, because in the end, I would be the one to carry the fetus in my body, I would be the one to potentially face another emergency cesarean section, and I would be the one whose baby could suffer the serious, sometimes fatal consequences of extreme prematurity,” Jayapal wrote.
She added: “Women should be allowed to choose, and that choice should not be dependent on anyone else’s opinion. I respect the perspectives of friends of mine who do not believe in abortion and say they would not choose it for themselves. I never try to convince someone that they should share my views on abortion, and I don’t want anyone to try to do that to me.”
Jayapal said she does not “begrudge” lawmakers who are opposed to abortions for themselves, but noted that they “must commit to preserving the constitutionally protected right of others to choose.”
The op-ed comes as a number of states pass measures severely restricting abortion in an effort to force a case to the Supreme Court that could reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the country. Among those states is Alabama, which last month approved a near-total ban on abortions, except in cases where the woman’s life is in jeopardy or the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.”
It also comes several weeks after Jayapal’s colleague Rep. Katie Hill, a California Democrat, said she had considered having an abortion as a teenager, a process that she said had brought “shame” and “emotional turmoil.”