In the end, Reps. Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) probably didn’t sway any votes by sharing their personal stories on the House floor on Thursday night. On Friday, 240 of 241 House Republicans voted to strip Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health care, of government funding.
Nevertheless, when Moore stood up to talk about being an 18-year-old with an unplanned pregnancy, and Speier described having a second-trimester abortion after a wanted pregnancy went wrong, the effect was electrifying. With their candor, the two congresswomen inspired women all over the country and pierced through the sanctimonious abstractions dominating the debate. At least half of women have an unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives, and nearly a third have an abortion. Yet even as politicians argue about these women’s lives and choices and futures, the women themselves remain faceless and voiceless. Moore and Speier changed that...
Several Republicans attacked Planned Parenthood as racist, a common antiabortion canard. “My wife and I have four adopted children, and they’re watching tonight,” said Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp, adding that his children “come from a group of children the history of Planned Parenthood has targeted: minorities.”
Hearing the Republicans pontificate, Moore said, “I was filled with rage. These same people who accuse Planned Parenthood of ‘targeting’ African-American children, they care about you only while you’re in the womb. The minute you crown, you’re on your own.”
Rep. Jackie Speier found Moore’s story powerful, but she had no intention of putting herself out there in the same way. Then, as the evening went on, she listened to New Jersey Republican Chris Smith as he read a long description of a second-trimester termination. The excerpt came from a book by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who, after being disciplined for her job performance, turned against the organization and became a heroine of the antiabortion movement, and it was deliberately grisly.
At the end of the debate on Thursday night, the two women embraced. “I just held on to her and gave her a big hug,” said Moore. “I’m so proud of her for just sharing, and giving her heart and soul. That’s what people need to see and hear. This is not just us droning on from talking points. These are people’s real lives.”
Thank you Gwen and Jackie. We're humbled and inspired by your strength and courage.