Jayapal Shares Her Own Abortion Story — and Why Abortion Rights Are Vita

On Tuesday, 17 Democratic lawmakers, almost all women, were arrested outside the Supreme Court while protesting the court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade. We speak with Pramila Jayapal of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She was one of many Democratic House Members who shared her personal experience of having an abortion and what a post Roe America would look like. “Abortion and the right to make decisions about our own bodies is so innately tied to our ability to control everything in our lives,” says Jayapal. She believes Congress should be ready to pass legislation to protect other important precedents that are now at risk from the ultra-conservative Supreme Court. These include the right to contraception, marriage equality and the right to abortion.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

On Tuesday, 17 Democratic lawmakers, almost all women, including Congressmembers Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, were arrested outside the Supreme Court while protesting the court’s recent decision overturning Roe.

We’re speaking with Congressmember Pramila Jayapal. She testified last year as chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus about having her own abortion. We want to see a video of that.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: I am one of the four American women who has had an abortion. You will need to see Janak, my first baby, to get a better understanding of how I made the decision to have an abort.

Janak was 26-and a half weeks old when I was on a fellowship of two years in India. They weighed just one pound 14 ounces each and were born at 21 ounces. Janak was so small, they fit in the palm of my hand — the size of a medium-sized squash. Three months passed before we knew if Janak would die or live. They needed multiple blood transfusions and were constantly having their heart stop and restart.

After three months, we returned to the United States. In those early, intensely difficult years, Janak had hydrocephalus — water on the brain — seizures and repeatedly returned to the emergency room because of life-threatening pneumonia. Janak, a beautiful, 25-year old human being, is a true miracle. It is the greatest gift I have ever received.

Janak was also born. At the time, Janak was also my legal permanent resident status. I was married now to a U.S. citizen and have a U.S. citizen daughter. I was eventually able to return home with Janak provided that I had to start from scratch in order to be eligible for citizenship.

I was a new mom caring for a sick baby and trying to recover from major surgery. I suffered severe postpartum depression, and post-traumatic Stress Disorder. This was only diagnosed after my suicide attempt and I realized I needed to seek treatment. My marriage did not survive. Janak was divided between us and I was the part-time single parent.

Shortly thereafter, I met a wonderful, loving man who became my husband. I knew I wasn’t ready to have another baby so I continued to take my daily contraceptive pill. Despite this, I got pregnant. I spoke with my doctors who advised me that any future pregnancy would be high-risk for me and the child. This was similar to Janak’s experience. Although I would love to have more children, I couldn’t imagine having another. After talking with my partner who was supportive of every decision I made, we decided to have an abortion.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Congressmember Pramila Jaipal bravely testifying before Congress last year. Since then, Congressmember Jayapal has been representing the interests of Congress. Roe v. Wade This has been retracted. Your comments?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Amy, it’s a catastrophic decision. And it is very clear to me that this decision, made by five Supreme Court justices who were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote — have literally taken it upon themselves to overturn not just this precedent, but to prepare for overturning other precedent.

We must be clear that the right to decide about our bodies and to have abortions is so fundamental and intrinsically linked to our ability to control all aspects of our lives. These decisions require a lot of nuance. These decisions require a deep understanding of the situations and the people we choose to bring in as our loved ones.

So, we need to be clear that this decision does not mean abortion will cease. It will continue to be performed. It will be illegal and criminalized. People will die. We cannot allow this to continue. It’s why we have to codify Roe v. Wade. We must also resist this radical Supreme Court.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Congresswoman, I’d like to ask about another burning [inaudible]Climate crisis. Heat waves have claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people in Europe. There were also massive wildfires in Portugal and France, and Britain is currently under a national emergency. You tweeted on Tuesday, quote, “Brutal heatwaves across the country and the globe are shattering records. The climate crisis is real and urgent. Action cannot wait any longer.” Yet we’re seeing so many countries, as a result of the war in Ukraine, going back on their proposals, on their moves, in terms of addressing the climate crisis. Your thoughts on the issue?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Climate change is a personal priority of mine, and a top priority for Progressive Caucus. It’s why we fought so hard for that half a trillion-dollar investment in Build Back Better. It’s why we held up the infrastructure bill multiple times, even after every Democratic senator had voted for it and sent it over to us. We wanted Build Back Better to pass, which it did. But we also, since that has died, thanks to one senator, a Democratic senator in the Senate, refusing —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: — to give his support — we have also called for a climate emergency and a whole slate of executive actions. That is what we believe the president should do now, using his executive authority.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you sorry he’s not doing it today?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: He’s got to do it quickly. I mean, it’s OK if it’s not today, but it should be today, tomorrow or in the immediate days, because that’s how urgent it is. We need him to use all of his power. [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: We are grateful to Congressmember Pramila Jayapal.