Lesley Bunnell spoke truth to power at Senate hearing on EACAIt was brave, emotional, confrontational, and even managed a happy ending – all in three minutes.
Published on May 10, 2023
By Steve Ahlquist
During Tuesday night’s Senate Judiciary hearing on the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA), which would mandate that state health care plans and Medicare cover abortion care, one testimony, toward the end of the hearing, stood out to me.
When Lesley Bunnell spoke on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island board, she had been listening to over three hours of testimony, much of which relied on white Christian nationalism, racism, pseudo-science, lies, and overt religiosity.
Bunnell did not waste her opportunity. She spoke of her experiences as a poor, Black mother who chose to have an abortion so she could focus her limited resources on her two-year old daughter. She called out the false narratives people were invoking in her image.
It was brave, emotional, confrontational, and even managed a happy ending – all in three minutes.
Watch it here, and read the edited transcription below.
“My name’s Lesley Bunnell. I am a Providence resident and I raised my daughter here. I am here on behalf of the Board of Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island. I keep hearing all these things around me and want to point out I am one of these women that you guys keep talking about, a poor Black woman who is a mother, who works very hard, and does not make a lot of money.
“On top of that, I’m here to talk about the reason why I had to have an abortion – and that is because birth control failed me. I have a daughter, and at the time she was two and at that moment I unfortunately became pregnant again, yet I could not afford another child. That is not something that anyone else can decide for me, because it’s my decision.
“The fact remains that as a poor person, I was in no position to be forced to have a child because other people find it offensive. Not to mention the fact that someone over here talking about how [making that] decision for myself means I’m a bad and evil person.
“This is ridiculous. I’m a real human being and I deserve the same access as any other human being who has insurance or not, has Medicaid or not, is a femme person or not.
“This is ridiculous, to sit here and listen to many, many white people explain what Black people need. There’s [also] some sort of convoluted conversation about slavery? It is just offensive to use slavery in the same sentence [as] medical care, I don’t care what anyone’s opinion is about what they feel about abortion.
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“As far as I’m concerned, I resent and I’m offended by the fact, as I sat here and listened to everyone talk about people like me – and from what I can tell, obviously, [they] don’t know anyone like me, even though there are plenty of us in this state – I really need to point out we are people. We are right in front of you. I am not a made up statistic. I’m a human being who had to make a decision, which by the way, I did not take lightly. I was not using abortion willy-nilly cuz I’m a hoe.
“Now, excuse me, but I will not sit next to someone who will degrade a person like me, who had to make the worst and hardest decision of their life. And by the way, it was the right decision because I was able to afford to raise my daughter so she could get a scholarship, so she could go to college, and now she can go to medical school. I focused my attention on the child that I had and who I needed to take care of.
“I will not apologize because birth control failed me and I was able to access the things that I needed to access. Thank you.“