HomeBad Ass AsiansRep. Pramila Jayapal Opens Up About Her Decision to Have an Abortion

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Opens Up About Her Decision to Have an Abortion

In a New York Times op-ed, representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wrote about her decision to have an abortion years ago. “It is an intensely personal decision,” she said in the op-ed. “But I have decided to speak about it now because I am deeply concerned about the intensified efforts to strip choice and constitutional rights away from pregnant people.”

Jayapal opens her personal story by telling us about her first child, Janak, who was born prematurely in India at 26.5 weeks old, weighing only 1 pound and 14 ounces. Janak, who is gender-non-conforming and identifies as “they,” wasn’t able to eat, had undeveloped lungs, and water in the brain. They went through multiple blood transfusions, making painful bleating sounds every time they were stuck with needles. For years, mother and baby made frequent trips to the emergency room because of weak lungs, frequent pneumonia, a seizure, and delays in speaking. Despite all this, Janak lived.

“The fact that Janak survived this extraordinarily dangerous birth and thrived (indeed, just graduated from college!) is something for which I give endless thanks.”

But the experience took a toll on Jayapal. She suffered from postpartum depression and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She and her husband divorced, so she became a single mom just as she was starting a civil rights organization in the wake of September 11.

Jayapal eventually remarried and found herself wanting more children, but her doctors warned that any future pregnancy was high-risk and could result in a birth like Janak’s. “We were on birth control,” she told MSNBC in an interview. But birth control is not fool proof, she added. “I did get pregnant and I had to make this choice.”

“I knew that I simply would not be able to go through what I had gone through again,” she wrote. “Janak was far from out of the woods, and I needed to preserve my strength for them.” So Jayapal made the “heartbreaking” decision that she “could not responsibly have the baby.”

22 years later, Jayapal’s motivation to tell her story built up as recent legislation passed in several states banning abortions. “I continued to get more and more angry,” Jayapal told BuzzFeed News. “I woke up one day after all this news … and decided that I had been given this platform and I wanted to use it.”

People from across social media have been praising and thanking the representative for not only sharing her story, but for also emphasizing that women “shouldn’t have do this. We shouldn’t have to explain why we’re making these choices. It is our choice.”

For Jayapal, owning that choice as her own was instrumental for her. “That is the single thing that has allowed me to live with the consequences of my decisions,” she wrote. “And that is what must be preserved, for every pregnant person.”

She told BuzzFeed News that she hopes that by sharing her story, she can visit and speak in states that are fighting for abortion access. She wants women to know that if they want to share their stories, there are people who are going to listen.

“If they want to share them out of anger, or their own processing, or a desire to build a tapestry of trust across this country of what abortion is, they should know that there is a really supportive community that is ready to embrace them.”

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