Abortion rights activists march in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2023. ​

Abortion rights activists march in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2023.

(Photo: Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Heart-Wrenching Yet Still Hopeful': Khanna Staffer Shares Abortion Story

"This isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," wrote Sarah Drory. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can't speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone."

Sarah Drory, Congressman Ro Khanna's deputy communications director, had an abortion—and with that healthcare under threat and widely stigmatized, she chose to share her story with the world.

"I was grateful to have the option to take the abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, at home—a way to make this painful experience more bearable," Drory wrote Thursday for Elle. "I desperately wanted support, but I was worried about how it would be perceived."

"Of all places, I never thought I would bring it up at work," the California Democrat's staffer continued, noting that "on Capitol Hill, it often feels like there is immense pressure to be professional—and even perfect," and "I am also painfully aware of the stigma that exists around abortion."

As Drory detailed:

I watch day after day as Republican lawmakers, with whom I share elevators and hallways, attack abortion rights on social media, cable news, and in floor speeches. Even lawmakers who support abortion typically only bring it up in the context of policy; I rarely hear it talked about from a personal perspective among staff or members of Congress. And when they are talking about policy, it's common for politicians—including Democrats—to use euphemisms like 'reproductive rights' and 'women's healthcare,' which only adds to the stigma and the shame. Because of this environment, it felt like there wasn't space for me to share my experience with other staffers or even friends at work.

Since the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling leaked last May, a growing number of people in politics have spoken about their abortions. On Roe v. Wade's 50th anniversary in January, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)—who shared her abortion story just before Dobbssaid that "the chaos we've seen over the past six months is the environment anti-abortion politicians have worked for decades to create, and they won't stop with Roe."

The high court's Roe reversal has further emboldened right-wing activists and politicians, who are trying to use the legal system to cut off access to mifepristone nationwide and have passed state-level bans that physicians warn endanger patients' lives.

"Once I saw these restrictions, the toll on my mental health was overwhelming," Drory explained. "Physically and emotionally recovering from my abortion was difficult on its own, but being plugged into the news at work nearly every day was a scary reminder that access to abortion for me and millions of others could be threatened at any moment."

"So, I decided to tell my boss, Congressman Khanna. The congressman and my colleagues were nothing but supportive and empathetic, and it made me wish I had spoken up sooner and leaned on people around me for support," she wrote. "I'm fortunate to work for a member of Congress who not only cares deeply about our well-being but also offers generous sick leave, mental health days, and flex time for therapy appointments."

Drory—who also does communications work for the Congressional Workers Union—stressed that "I shared my story, because it's essential that, across Congress, we figure out ways to support our colleagues who have had abortions or are more generally struggling with their mental health."

"As congressional staff and members of Congress continue to help shape the national conversation around abortion, it's important to remember that this isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," she concluded. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can’t speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone. Building a nation that trusts people to choose their own healthcare—and supports them in telling their stories—is how we start to heal."

Khanna—who has received 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPFA) for his voting record—was among those who thanked Drory for her essay in Elle.

"Read this vulnerable, heart-wrenching yet still hopeful piece from Sarah Drory, a congressional staffer whose story needs to be heard," tweeted the Congressional Progressive Staff Association. "Sarah, you've made Congress a safer, more open place to work by speaking out."

U.S. Senate Budget Committee researcher Aria Kovalovich wrote: "Thanks to my friend and former colleague... for sharing her story. Abortion isn't just a talking point; it's personal. Managers can tackle the stigma that makes it difficult to talk about mental health in Congress."

PPFA president Alexis McGill Johnson said she was "endlessly grateful to Sarah Drory for her bravery in sharing her abortion story," and that "everyone deserves a workplace... as supportive and empathetic as Rep. Ro Khanna's."

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