As abortion has become an even more contentious political issue this year than it has been in the past, with many states passing restrictive abortion bans, many have decided to get personal when telling their stories about how they feel about the issue.
Now, a sitting member of Congress has written an op-ed in which she reveals for the first time publicly that she herself had an abortion.
First elected in 2016, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from the state of Washington representing the Seattle area, authored a New York Times op-ed that was published Thursday with the headline “The Story of My Abortion.”
In the piece, Rep. Jayapal reveals that she had an extremely difficult pregnancy with her first child, who was born prematurely during a visit to India, weighing only 1 pound, 14 ounces. The congresswoman suffered postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other medical difficulties.
“I have never spoken publicly about my abortion. I’m speaking now because of intensified efforts to strip Constitutional rights from pregnant people and to criminalize abortion,” the Congresswoman said in the Times op-ed, referring to the restrictive anti-abortion laws passed by various states in recent months.
After divorcing her first son’s father and re-marrying, Jayapal considered having more children but was warned by doctors that she was likely to face similar medical difficulties again. She had decided to not get pregnant again but became pregnant nevertheless.
“I decided I could not responsibly have the baby. It was a heartbreaking decision, but it was the only one I was capable of making,” Jayapal wrote.
She went on to thank the doctor who had helped her years ago and acknowledged that many stories related to abortion and unplanned pregnancy are more traumatic than hers.
It’s unclear if any sitting member of Congress has ever before revealed a past abortion.
The Twitter account for Planned Parenthood Action shared the article, adding that “this fight for our right to make decisions about our bodies is one we cannot afford to lose.”
Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone, a civil rights organization, following the September 11 attacks in 2001. In July of 2018, she was one of 500 people arrested during a women’s protest of Trump immigration policy, per The New York Times.
Born in India, Jayapal emigrated to the United States at age 16 in 1982. Earlier this month, she became the first woman of South Asian-American ancestry to preside over the House of Representatives, per The Hill. She served as a state senator in Washington before her election to Congress.