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Rep. Jackie Speier Headshot

"Abortion" Fuels Intolerant Thinking

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In our nation's political dictionary "abortion" is a word employed by intolerant people to cast shame on women who choose it. When one of my colleagues on the House floor trivialized a woman's decision to have a second trimester abortion, I stood to correct his mischaracterization by giving my own account of a painful time in my life when the pregnancy my husband and I prayed for was unsuccessful.

The fires of journalistic sensationalism struck quickly. Some news outlets reported: "Congresswoman Admits to Having an Abortion." You admit guilt, but for me there was no guilt, only the pain of a pregnancy that did not work. The fetus had slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. To stave off a life-threatening infection and to keep the possibility of a future birth alive, I had what's called dilation and evacuation or "d & e." But for people, particularly my colleagues who don't want Planned Parenthood to be funded, I simply had an abortion.

I am saddened and angered by how politicians misuse women's health. For some, describing a procedure like the one I endured is nothing more than talking points. But for millions of women like me, it's much more -- it's something that will always be a part of us.

The day after I spoke on the floor, my district office was flooded with phone calls from women and men in support of what I said. But there was one voicemail from a man who asked, "How does it feel to be a baby killer?" A local television station later reported that I was 17 when I had an abortion -- that would have been a sensational news story if not for that fact that it was untrue. I was in my 17th week of pregnancy and over 40 and married -- not so sensational, but true.

I ask that we collectively inhale, calm down and consider the vital services provided by Planned Parenthood to women. The benefits of family planning and cervical cancer screenings need to continue and I am troubled that the House passed the Pence amendment to defund these efforts. This action threatens to turn back the clock on women's health and reproductive rights. I trust the Senate will defeat the amendment. It is time to stop playing politics with our lives.

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