WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jackie Speier listened to debate on the House floor on Thursday evening as a Republican Rep. Chris Smith read a long, detailed description of an abortion and a "mangled image of a dead, tiny baby." Finally, Speier stood up and told her colleagues she had undergone an abortion in the early 1990s following a complication nearly four months into her pregnancy.
"As the night wore on, the vitriol and grotesque commentary got worse and worse," Speier, a second-term Democrat from California, told HuffPost. "I sat there thinking, none of these men on the other side have even come close to experiencing this, and yet they can pontificate about what it's like. It just overwhelmed me."
Speier underwent an abortion in her early 40s, while she was serving in the California State Assembly. The procedure used to terminate the pregnancy was the same type that Smith's book described. As she listened, Speier said she became more emotional and made the decision to speak out.
"This was a wanted pregnancy, it was the second miscarriage I had had," she told HuffPost. "What they express doesn't come close to the experience that a woman goes through when she is losing a baby or when a pregnancy is terminated. It's a painful, gut-wrenching loss."
She said she had spoken publicly about her experience with abortion only once before, while debating late-term abortion in the California state legislature.
After she told her story, Speier said many colleagues -- both male and female -- offered their support, some saying she put tears in their eyes. One Republican told her the amendment was inappropriate, she said, while Smith, whose remarks caused her to speak up, said nothing.
As a longtime supporter of abortion rights, Speier said she was frustrated to see a debate over funding descend into a moral debate over a woman's right to choose. The amendment under debate, proposed by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funds -- even though they are already barred from being used for abortion.
The amendment passed on Friday in a 240-185 vote but will likely be blocked in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.
"A continuing resolution is a mechanism to allow the government to continue to operate," Speier told HuffPost. "It should not be a vehicle for political rhetoric and high drama that was exhibited last night on an issue that was unrelated to the federal budget. It didn't create one job, it didn't reduce the deficit, so what was the point?"
(Note: The account of the fetus moving from the vagina to cervix appears to be anatomically impossible. Speier is likely referring to movement from the uterus to the cervix)
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