St. Louis and I thank you Chairwoman Maloney for convening this urgent hearing. It is an honor to join Congresswoman Lee, Jayapal, and Chu as part of today’s panel. And I also want to thank my sister, Congresswoman Presley, for her leadership in this hearing, and to my sisters in service for being here with me today, and brother.
In the summer of 1994, I was a young girl all of 17 years old and had just graduated high school. Like so many black girls during that time, I was obsessed with fashion and gold jewelry and how I physically showed up in the world. But I was also very lost. For all of my life, I had been A straight a student with dreams of attending college and becoming a nurse. But high school early on was difficult for me. I was discriminated against, bullied; and as time passed, my grades slipped and along with it the dream of obtaining a full scholarship to a historically black college. That summer I was just happy that I passed my classes and that I finished high school.
Shortly after graduate I went on a church trip Jackson, Mississippi. I had many friends on that trip and while there, I met a boy – a friend of a friend. He was a little older then I was, about maybe 20 years old. That first day we met we flirted, we talked on the phone. While on the phone he asked me, ‘could he come over to my room?’ I was bunking with a friend and hanging out and said he could stop by. But he didn’t show up for a few hours, and by the time he did it was so late that my friend and I had gone to bed. I answer the door, and quietly told him he could come in, imagining that we would talk and laugh like we had done over the phone – but 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 we was done, he got up, he pulled up his pants, and without a word, he left – that was it. I was confused, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed. I asked myself was it something I had done?
The next morning I wanted to talk to him. I just wanted to say something to him, but he refused to talk to me. By the time that trip ended, we still hadn’t spoken at all. About a month after the trip I turned 18. A few weeks later, I realized I had missed my period. I reached out to a friend, and asked the guy from the church trip to contact me. I wait for him reach out but he never did. I never heard from – I was 18, I was broke, and I felt so alone. I blamed myself for what had happened to me. But I knew I had options. I had known other girls who had gone to a local clinic to get birth control, and some who had gotten abortions. So I looked through the yellow pages and scheduled an appointment.
During my first visit I found out I was nine weeks pregnant and then there the panic set in. How could I make this pregnancy work? How could I, at 18 years old and barely scraping by, support a child on my own? And I would have been on my own. I was stressed out knowing that the father wouldn’t be involved; I fear my parents would kick me out of the home. The best parents in the world but I feared they would kick me out. My dad was a proud father and always bragging about his little girl and how he knew I would go straight to college and become attorney general – that was his goal for me. So with no scholarship intact and college out of the foreseeable future, I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing my dad again. I knew it was a decision I had to make for myself – so I did.
My abortion happened on a Saturday. There were a few other people in the clinic room, waiting room. Including one other young black girl. I overheard the clinic staff talking about her saying she had ruined her life – and that’s what they do. They being black girls like us. Before the procedure I remember going in for counseling and being told that if moved forward with this pregnancy my baby would be jacked up because the fetus was already malnourished and underweight. Being told that if I had this baby, I would wind up on food stamps and welfare. I was being talked to like trash and it worsened my shame. Afterwards while in the changing area I heard some girls, all white, talking about how they were told how bright their futures were how loved their babes would be if they adopted and that their options and their opportunities were limitless. In that moment, listening to those girls, I felt anguished, I felt like I had failed.
I went home, my body ached, and I had this heavy bleeding. I felt so sick. I felt dizzy, nauseous – I felt like something was missing. I felt alone but I also felt so resolved in my decision. 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. It was freeing, knowing I had options. Even still, it took long for to feel like me again until most recently – when I decided to give this speech. So to all the black women and girls who have had abortions and 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. So that’s why I’m here to tell my story. So today I sit before you as that nurse, as that pastor, as that activist, that survivor, that single mom, that congresswoman to testify that in the summer of 1994 I was raped, I become pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion. I yield.
Bush, C. [C-SPAN]. (2021, September 30) Rep. Cori Bush: In 1994 "I was raped, I became pregnant and I chose to have an abortion." [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RebXsll-awc]. Retrieved on February 9, 2022 from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb--64Gl51jIEVE-GLDAVTg.