Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speier stuns House colleagues with story of her abortion

Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speier stuns House colleagues with story of her abortion
By Bruce Newman

It happened nearly two decades ago, in the most personal and painful of moments. Jackie Speier, 17 weeks pregnant, was losing a baby she desperately wanted. She miscarried, with the fetus slipping from her uterus, and doctors told her the baby wouldn't survive.

Agonizingly, Speier and her physician husband terminated the pregnancy.

Minutes before midnight Thursday, that unbearably emotional experience came pouring out in the most public way when the 60-year-old Democratic congresswoman from San Mateo spoke about her abortion to stunned colleagues on the floor of the House.

"I lost a baby," Speier began softly, admonishing Republicans for graphically describing the procedure she had endured. "But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous."

By Friday, her three-minute speech had gone viral on the Internet, with many Americans lauding her courage.

Speier had just listened to Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., assail Planned Parenthood as a place where babies are "exterminated." He described a procedure known as "dilation and evacuation" as fetal murder.

She had been standing at the alternate podium in the well of the House -- where members await their turn to address the chamber -- when suddenly she forgot what she had planned to say.

"I was thinking to myself, 'Not one of you has endured this
procedure,' " she told the Mercury News in an interview Friday. She said she thought, —‰'How dare you? How dare you talk about it in those terms?' That's why I changed what I was going to say."

Speier on Thursday joined other House Democrats from California to voice concern about Republicans' efforts to block federal aid to Planned Parenthood. The House on Friday voted 240-185 to cut off funding.

"It was pretty tense in the chamber anyway," Speier recalled. "The language being used, the nature of the comments, it got so incendiary."

She said she felt "a sense of disbelief at the level of vitriol and animus coming from my colleagues, who don't have a clue what they're talking about."

Speier turned right and glared at Smith, who "just put my stomach in knots," and continued to look directly at him as she froze the hushed chamber. "Because I'm one of those women he spoke about just now."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, was standing in the aisle as Speier began to speak. Pelosi quickly took a seat and didn't move until Speier had finished.

As a member of the California Legislature, Speier was the first lawmaker to have a baby while in office, giving birth to her second child when she was 44. The "spontaneous abortion" she described -- a miscarriage, in common terms -- occurred before that birth.

The 20-minute procedure she received, known as either "dilation and evacuation" or "dilation and extraction,'' involves the use of medical instruments and suction to remove a fetus from the uterus after it has died. The cervix must be dilated before the fetus can be extracted, and the procedure, under some circumstances, has been labeled "partial-birth abortion'' by political opponents.

"This was not an elective procedure, but it really emphasizes how important it is that doctors be trained in the technique, because it is the same, whether elective or management of a miscarriage," said Dr. Amy Jean Voedisch, a Stanford University OB-GYN...

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