Cori Bush Tells House Committee Abortion After Rape Was 'Hardest Decision' She's Ever Made

Missouri Representative Cori Bush told a House committee that getting an abortion was the "hardest decision" she's ever made as lawmakers and leaders looked to formulate a response to a wave of abortion-limiting legislation emerging in conservative states, the Associated Press reported. Bush was one of three Democratic members of Congress who shared their personal experiences Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight Reform.

The hearing took place weeks after the enactment of a highly-restrictive Texas law that prohibits abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Bush disclosed during the hearing that she was raped during a church youth trip, spurring her decision to get an abortion, the AP reported.

"Choosing to have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made, but at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me," Bush said.

California Representative Barbara Lee shared her story of receiving a "back-alley" abortion in Mexico after she became pregnant as a teenager. Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal also spoke, revealing that she decided to get the procedure after she found out that her pregnancy would put both her and the baby at risk, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Cori Bush Shares Abortion Story
Representative Cori Bush told a House committee that getting an abortion was the “hardest decision” she’s ever made as lawmakers and leaders looked to respond to a wave of abortion-limiting legislation emerging in conservative states. Bush, D-Missouri, wipes away a tear as she prepares to testify about her experience being raped and a subsequent abortion, Thursday, September 30, 2021, during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court is weighing the fate of a Missouri law that bans abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, also with no rape or incest exceptions. And, the U.S. Supreme Court in December will hear arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The hearing also looked at what the federal government can do to ensure abortion access. Options include ending the Hyde Amendment, which restricts government funding for most abortions, and passing a law guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion. The House passed that measure last week, but Republican opposition would almost certainly doom it in the Senate.

Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said the majority of Americans support abortion rights.

"But with a hostile Supreme Court, extremist state governments are no longer chipping away at constitutional rights -- they are bulldozing right through them," Maloney said.

Republican Representative James Comen of Kentucky said the oversight committee should focus on problems with President Joe Biden's administration, not a state matter over which it "has absolutely no jurisdiction." Another Republican, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, said abortion "only compounds the sorrow."

"Whether a pregnancy is planned or unplanned, or even the result of horrific circumstances, ending that child's life with an abortion to empower or protect the, quote, freedom, end quote, of the mother is not an answer," Foxx said.

Bush, a 45-year-old first-term lawmaker from St. Louis, testified that she had just graduated from high school in the summer of 1994 and went on a church youth trip to Mississippi. She said she befriended a man who was about 20. She said they flirted and he asked to go to the room she was sharing with another girl. Her roommate was already asleep when the man showed up.

"I answered the door and quietly told him he could come in, imagining that we would talk and laugh like we had done over the phone," Bush said. "But the next thing I knew, he was on top of me, messing with my clothes, and not saying anything at all."

When it was over, Bush said, she was "confused."

"I was embarrassed, I was ashamed," she said. "I asked myself, 'Was it something I'd done?'"

About a month later, soon after she turned 18, Bush learned she was pregnant.

"To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions or will have abortions -- know this: We have nothing to be ashamed of," Bush said.

Jayapal said her first child, Janak, now 25, was born prematurely and weighed less than 2 pounds, which resulted in medical conditions that frequently required his hospitalization. Jayapal said other stresses combined with the sick baby resulted in postpartum depression so bad that she contemplated suicide.

She said that when she became pregnant again, she consulted with doctors "who told me that any future pregnancy would likely also be high risk to me and the child, similar to what I had gone through with Janak."

"I very much wanted to have more children," she said, "but I simply could not imagine going through that again."

Ending the pregnancy was "the most difficult choice I've made in my life, but it was my choice," Jayapal said.

Lee became pregnant at age 16 in the mid-1960s. Abortion in California was illegal at the time so a family friend helped send her to a "back-alley clinic in Mexico," she said.

She had no ill effects from the procedure, but she said many other women weren't so lucky in that era.

"In the 1960s, unsafe septic abortions were the primary killer — primary killer — of African American women," Lee said.

A Republican lawmaker had her own personal story about an abortion that didn't happen.

Representative Kat Cammack of Florida said her mother suffered a stroke while pregnant with Cammack's older sister. Years later, when pregnant with Cammack, Cammack's mother was urged by doctors to have an abortion.

"But because of her strength," Cammack said, "she chose life."

Jayapal Testifies on Abortion Experience
Representative Pramila Jayapal was one of three Democratic Congress members who testified before a House committee looking to respond to wave of abortion-limiting legislation emerging in conservative states. Jayapal, D-Washington, testifies about her decision to have an abortion, Thursday, September 30, 2021, during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo