Padma Lakshmi Reveals How Devastating Car Crash Forced Her Mom to Have Abortion

Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Padma Lakshmi is opening up about how a car crash changed her family's life forever.

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE at the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York's Spring Into Action gala benefit on Monday, Lakshmi, 52, explained how the crash left her mom Vijaya with injuries that were so severe she needed to seek an abortion because her body was unable to sustain the child she was carrying.

"We were all very injured, we had a mountain of medical bills. My mother had broken bones, had a cardiac contusion," Lakshmi told PEOPLE about the accident, which left her mom with fractures to her arm, hand and ribcage, plus a severed sternum and "a massive cardiac contusion."

The Top Chef host — who was aged 14 when the accident happened — was also left with a long scar on her upper arm.

"Her heart would not have sustained that pregnancy," the award-winning cookbook author added about her mother's torturous decision to seek an abortion after the accident.

The walk to the Planned Parenthood center proved traumatic, however, as it meant passing a group of anti-abortion activists gathered outside.

"I remember how hard it was to even drive there and get out of the car, and then to be met with the jeering mob that we were met with was really excruciating," Lakshmi told PEOPLE about having to deal with the mob while still recovering from the crash.

"I felt very sorry for my mother, but I thought she was making the right decision, I could see how hard it was for her to get around... just physically, because of her injuries," she continued.

RELATED: Padma Lakshmi on How Her Mom Shaped Her Love of Cooking: 'She Was a Tyrant in the Kitchen But in a Loving Way'

Top Chef TV personality Padma Lakshmi, wearing a red pants suit, and her mother Vijaya Lakshmi attend Variety's 'Power of Women' luncheon at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, New York on April 13, 2018.
Top Chef TV personality Padma Lakshmi, wearing a red pants suit, and her mother Vijaya Lakshmi attend Variety's 'Power of Women' luncheon at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, New York on April 13, 2018.

Christopher Peterson/Splash News

Speaking to guests at the event in The Glasshouse in New York City, Lakshmi later spoke movingly about how the walk alongside her mother will remain forever seared into her memory.

"They made sure to take a moment that we would already never forget and heighten every negative emotion by 1000," she said about the crowd of protestors — one of whom yelled, "if you really loved your daughter, you wouldn't take her in there."

"I'm embarrassed to say that in that moment, I broke. I turned and I yelled over my shoulder; 'It's not me, it's her!' " said Lakshmi. "I've always deeply regretted that comment because I was, you know, I was just a girl and I didn't know then what I know now. I was feeling slut shamed. I didn't want them to think I was promiscuous. It was a white-hot, hot slash of internalized misogyny."

The author said the truth was her mom was there on that day "specifically because of her love for me."

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Padma Lakshmi at the Critic's Choice Awards
Padma Lakshmi at the Critic's Choice Awards

Padma Lakshmi/Instagram

Speaking to PEOPLE, the ambassador for women's rights said it was this turbulent time that galvanized her motivations to support Planned Parenthood.

"It just reminded me that there were few options for women in this country," she explained. "I was happy that my mom had Planned Parenthood and I just wanted to pay it forward."

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"I can't believe that my 13-year-old daughter has less rights in some states in this country than I did when I was her age," Lakshmi added before stating that "nobody has the right to dominion over another human body."

"This country is based on freedom and we don't have freedom for 54% of the population," the Emmy-nominated presenter added, before revealing that many people in the U.S. don't actually know what services Planned Parenthood offers.

"They provide STD screening, cancer screenings, birth controls... they also perform vasectomies...," she continued. "It's a necessary service for millions of people. It's their only health care."