Rep. Cori Bush Shares She Had An Abortion After Rape As A Teen

by Kristina Johnson
PBS NewsHour/Youtube

The Missouri Congresswoman was the epitome of bravery and strength as she shared her harrowing story

Rep. Cori Bush shared her personal story of being sexually assaulted as a teenager and her subsequent abortion, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Thursday. That hearing aimed to “examine the threat to abortion rights and access” currently unfolding in states like Texas, and Bush’s devastating experience provided the perfect example of why anti-abortion laws do irrevocable harm.

Bush detailed how at just 17 years old, she went on a church trip in Jackson, Missouri, where she met a 20-year-old man. She described him as a “friend of a friend,” which made her feel more comfortable agreeing to let her come to her room to talk. But when he showed up — things took a horrible turn.

“The next thing I knew, he was on top of me, messing with my clothes, and not saying anything at all. ‘What is happening?’ I thought. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen in shock, just laying there as his weight pressed down upon me. When he was done, he got up, he pulled up his pants, and without a word — he left. That was it,” she said. “I was confused, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed. I asked myself, was it something that I had done?”

Weeks later — Bush realized that she’d missed her period. Unsure of what to do and unable to get in touch with the man who’d raped her, Bush said “panic set in.”

“I was 18. I was broke, and I felt so alone. I blamed myself for what had happened to me,” she shared. At that point, she was about 9 weeks pregnant — three weeks past the point when Texas’s restrictive new law would allow her to terminate the pregnancy today.

“How could I make this pregnancy work? How could I, at 18 years old and barely scraping by, support a child on my own?” The answer was that she couldn’t — especially knowing how angry her family would have been. So she chose the only option that made any kind of sense to a traumatized and scared teenager and had an abortion.

“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 explained, even though she said she was subjected to racism and shaming in the clinic where the procedure was done.

Bush also shared how she experienced shaming and discrimination as a Black woman with a counselor telling her the baby would be “jacked up” and suggesting the fetus was already malnourished. “I was being talked to like trash and it worsened my shame,” she said.

“To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions or will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us. So we deserve better. We demand better. We are worthy of better,” she said. “So that’s why I’m here to tell my story.”

Democratic Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Barbara See also shared their own experiences with abortion. See’s tale outlined the lengths women had to go to before Roe v. Wade legalized abortions and gave women safe access to them in 1973. Before that landmark ruling — which is now under assault by states like Texas — See had a highly dangerous “back-alley” abortion across the border in Mexico.

It’s a terrifying choice that more women could be forced to make if states continue to restrict abortions. Bush, Jayapal, and See so courageously shared their stories to help make sure that doesn’t happen — because they know firsthand how awful it would be.