Dem reveals abortion in Planned Parenthood funding debate

The House chamber was silenced Thursday night when California Rep. Jackie Speier (D) revealed that she had to have an abortion.

The revelation came as debate on an amendment to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood neared its third hour.

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Speier shocked the lower chamber, half-full of lawmakers and staff, still hard at work on a government funding measure for the third straight day.

Speier said she intended to speak to a different topic but was so upset by her GOP colleague Rep. Chris Smith’s (N.J.) preceding five-minute speech during which he read graphic depictions from a book of a woman describing the experience of having an abortion.

“I really planned to speak about something else but the gentleman from New Jersey just put my stomach in knots because I’m one of those women he spoke about just now. I had a procedure at 17 weeks pregnant with a child who moved from the vagina into the cervix. And that procedure that you just described is a procedure that I endured,” Speier said.

At that moment, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had been standing in the aisle of the Democratic side, took a seat to listen to her Golden State colleague.

“I lost the baby. And for you to stand on this floor and suggest that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought, is preposterous,” Speier said, glaring at the Republicans on the other side of the aisle.

Though Planned Parenthood is banned from using federal dollars to perform abortions, conservative Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) led the charge to defund the family planning organization.

Republicans lined up to support Pence’s amendment to deny funding to the women’s reproductive centers as Democrats fiercely defended it.

At 9 p.m. the lower chamber began debating Pence’s amendment to the underlying bill that would provide funds to the government until the end of the fiscal year in September.

With more than 500 amendments submitted to the continuing resolution (CR), as the measure is known, most of the debates on those items lasted little more than 20 to 30 minutes.

But the debate late Thursday, hours after the House was initially set to vote on the continuing resolution, seemed unending for staffers, lawmakers and reporters in the Capitol as the House creeped toward final passage of the CR.

Member after member rose to give subdued but emotional five-minute speeches: graphic descriptions of abortion procedures from those in support of Pence’s amendment and heart-breaking stories of women’s lives being saved by Planned Parenthood from lawmakers opposed to the amendment.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) rose to accuse Republicans for their “war on women,” and called the amendment a “bill of attainder.”

“I hear that we must punish Planned Parenthood by defunding them because they’ve committed a number of sins; sin No. 1, they are large abortion providers, even though none of those abortions are paid for by the federal government,” Nadler said on the House Floor.

A bill of attainder punishes an entity for a crime without having stood trial.

Several speakers later, GOP Rep. Louis Gohmert (Texas) took to the podium to argue that the amendment was not a bill of attainder.

“No one is being found guilty of a crime here; I know about those things,” the former district judge said as dozens of exhausted lawmakers watched from seats on the floor.

Nadler, sitting in the back of the chamber on the Democratic side of the aisle, rushed to the leadership table to engage in a conversation with Gohmert, but the former Texas judge refused to yield time to Nadler.

“I know the gentleman is one of the smartest people I know but this is not a bill of attainder,” Gohmert said after Nadler requested time to ask his GOP colleague a question.