In moving NYT oped, Indian American Rep. Pramila Jayapal discloses that she had an abortion

Pramila Jayapal

The congresswoman says she is speaking about it now because she is “deeply concerned about the intensified efforts to strip choice” and “criminalize abortion.”

Indian American congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, one of the most progressive voices in US Congress, shared a secret with the world on Thursday, and she chose the “Paper of Record” to reveal that.

The Washington Democrat revealed in an oped in The New York Times on Thursday that she had an abortion more than a decade ago.

In the moving 1,190-word piece Jayapal revealed the circumstances that led her to terminate the fetus. Her first pregnancy 22 years ago resulted in the premature birth of her son, Janak, in Mumbai, India.

Weighing “only 1 pound 14 ounces” at birth, “Janak survived against all odds,” Jayapal wrote.

The baby “went through multiple blood transfusions and was unable to eat because their internal organs were not developed enough to take in or process milk,” she wrote. “I, too, was physically and emotionally weak, having gone through an emergency cesarean section, with concerns about infection that threatened my own life.”

The congresswoman revealed that she developed “traumatic stress disorder” and it let to the end of her marriage.

Years later, when she remarried, her doctors told Jayapal that “any future pregnancy would be extremely high-risk and could result in a birth similar to Janak’s.”

Even though she took precautions to make sure that she did not get pregnant, she got pregnant.

“It was excruciating,” she wrote. “I wanted children, but I wasn’t ready, nor was I fully recovered. I was so grateful that Janak had survived, but I could not tempt fate again. It had to be my choice, because in the end, I would be the one to carry the fetus in my body, I would be the one to potentially face another emergency cesarean section, and I would be the one whose baby could suffer the serious, sometimes fatal consequences of extreme prematurity. I could not simply hope for the best — I had to make a decision based on the tremendous risks that had been clearly laid out for me.”

The congresswoman wrote that she decided that she “could not responsibly have the baby,” which “was a heartbreaking decision.”

Jayapal, the only Indian American woman to serve in US Congress, added that, to this day, she has “deep emotions about all the events” of her life. “For me, terminating my pregnancy was not an easy choice, but it was my choice,” she wrote. “That is the single thing that has allowed me to live with the consequences of my decisions. And that is what must be preserved, for every pregnant person.”

Jayapal wrote that she is speaking about the abortion publicly because she is “deeply concerned about the intensified efforts to strip choice and constitutional rights away from pregnant people and the simplistic ways of trying to criminalize abortion.”

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