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

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 talk to Pramila Jayapal (chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus), who was one of many Democratic House members who shared her personal experience with having an abortion. She also discusses what a post-Roe America might 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. As chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus she testified last year about her own abortion. We would like to see a clip of it right now.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: I am one of the four women in America 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 born 26-and-a half weeks after I was on a two year fellowship living in India. They weighed in at one pound 14 and a half ounces, and their birth weight was 21 ounces. Janak was so small, they fit in the palm of my hand — the size of a medium-sized squash. We didn’t know for three months if Janak would survive or die. They required multiple blood transfusions, were fed drop by drop, and had their hearts stop and restart constantly.

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 is a beautiful, 25-year old human being. This is a true miracle.

Janak was also born. I was fighting for my legal permanent residence status. I was married to a U.S. Citizen with a U.S citizen child. 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 mother caring for a very sick baby, and also having 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 that I needed to seek treatment. My marriage did not survive. Janak was split between us, and I was a single parent part-time.

I met my wonderful husband, shortly thereafter. I knew I wasn’t ready to have another baby so I continued to take my daily contraceptive pill. Despite all that, I fell pregnant. I sought advice from my doctors. They advised me that any future pregnancies would likely pose a high risk for me and the baby, much like Janak. I wanted more children but couldn’t see myself going through the same thing again. After talking with my partner who was supportive of every decision I made, we decided to have an abortion.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Congressmember Pramila Jaipal bravely testifying before Congress last year. Since then, Congressmember Jayapal Roe v. Wade This decision has been reversed. 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.

It is important to remember that our ability and desire to control our lives and make decisions about our bodies is innate. 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 have to 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. What is your opinion on the issue?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Climate change has been a top priority of mine personally, and also for the 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. But 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 ten seconds.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: — to give his support — we have also called for a climate emergency and a whole slate of executive actions. We believe that the president should do this now with his executive power.

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.