PHILADELPHIA — Her remarks came in the 5 p.m. hour, not in primetime, but when NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue spoke from the Democratic National Convention stage here on Wednesday, she made convention history.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was the first speaker to utter the word abortion from the convention stage this year. The next day, Hogue broke new ground and spoke about having had one.
“I am a fourth-generation Texan,” said Hogue, who before leading the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws had worked with MoveOn.org in Washington, D.C. “Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path.”
She continued: “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time. I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion and get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community. Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.
“My story is not unique. About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have. You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”
Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, “As far as I know.”
It’s not the first time Hogue has spoken publicly about having had an abortion. She told Elle magazine last year that it took place while she was in graduate school at the University of Michigan — a decision she says she made with the support of family and friends.
But it is highly unusual to hear a woman talk about having had an abortion outside the framework of personal tragedy, such as the wanted pregnancy of a non-viable fetus, in any public forum.
Former Texas state legislator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis riveted the nation during a 2013 filibuster against Texas’ restrictive abortion law, has spoken openly about having ended two pregnancies — but in both cases there were health factors involved. In one case, she received treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening medical emergency in which a fetus develops outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are non-viable, and treating them is not considered abortion. In another case, Davis spoke of having terminated “a much-wanted pregnancy” during her second trimester when “my then husband and I discovered that our baby daughter was suffering from a debilitating brain abnormality.”
Abortion rights advocates have taken different tacks over the years since the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, Democrats — including now presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — emphasized that they believed abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” But in recent years, a younger generation of advocates has sought to preserve abortion rights by speaking openly about their own abortions.
The Democratic Party platform has supported abortion rights, with varying degrees of ambivalence and conviction, since 1976.