THE BLOG
01/14/2014 05:51 pm ET | Updated Mar 16, 2014

With Upcoming Discussion on Limiting Abortion Rights, the Personal Is Political

Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up the so-called "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" Act. The drill has already started. Those who oppose access to abortion are already firing off press releases, and I am joining other members of Congress who support ensuring that women continue to have access to reproductive rights.

But below the dueling tweets, it is easy to forget that members of Congress are people. Even with the television appearances and our pictures appearing on pieces of mail, we are not actors or models; we are people who came to Congress with a history of unique experiences. And for many of the women in Congress our backgrounds include a very personal history with family planning.

I cannot help but think of my colleague Rep. Jackie Speier. She showed an amazing level of bravery in 2011 when she told fellow members of Congress and the world the personal struggle that women are faced when they decide to have an abortion, and often times these are the same women whom we see every day in our careers.

One of the most common critiques of the modern Congress is that members do not have the relationships with each other like members of Congress used to have in a time gone by. And pundits point to the amount of time that members of Congress spend in their districts, and the time that we spend fundraising as a key component of why members don't know each other. Indeed, we spend more time tweeting at each other than just talking with each other.

And as much credence that those arguments have, it ignores the fact that the personal is political, and while Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee -- all men -- are so quick to take up limiting access to reproductive rights, they are doing more than ignoring very important legislation that will help women by preventing employers from firing or demoting women when they get pregnant or take maternity leave. They are creating an environment in Congress where some women just simply do not want to work with their colleagues because of the visceral discussion that the GOP majority has chosen to have around family planning.

So today the GOP will press play on the anti-abortion game. The bill will most likely pass the Judiciary Committee over the objection of Democrats as well as the pleas of many pro-choice Democratic women.

And if it passes, the bill will head to the Floor of the House to be greeted with impassioned speeches from both sides of the aisle. Regardless if it passes the House or not, its stench will remain, and it will cloud the relationships that women who serve on the Judiciary Committee and those women who serve in the House of Representatives will have the Republican majority as we continue to address important matters of public policy.

We can say that we move on to the next issue, but it is impossible as a human to just sweep these personal attacks under the rug. And to break the issue of abortion rights down to a battle over "messaging," or ensuring that Republican members of the House give some necessary red meat to their base, ultimately has a much more dire impact on the body politic. It just adds to the negativity that continues to haunt Congress.

Congress needs to change the issues we discuss and the tenure of our debates. We have real and serious problems that we need to address, and voters justifiably want nothing more than for us to stop these divisive ideological discussions and find common ground that will help Americans.

Instead of attacking women's right to choose, Congress needs to work together to find real ways to help working families. We can raise the minimum wage -- helping many mothers who are the primary breadwinners for their families. We can expand scholarships for women and parents to get better jobs.

Not only would these policies actually help women and families, but it would change how members of Congress view and relate to each other, meaning that we can work together instead of tweeting against each other.