I decided to run for U.S. Congress because we need responsible leadership in Washington. Part of being a responsible leader is protecting the rights of our citizens and upholding the dignity of the individual.
Sadly, women’s rights have come under attack around the country, including in South Carolina. A woman’s right to decide when and if she will become a mother has been stripped. For me, protecting a woman’s right to choose is not just a matter of political ideology; it is deeply personal and rooted in a family tragedy that altered the course of my family.
My maternal grandparents were the children of immigrants. My grandfather was a first-generation Irish American, and my grandmother, Adele, was a first-generation Italian American. They were a blue-collar, tight-knit family trying to support eight children.
Adele Coughlin on her wedding day. She died tragically in 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo provided by Mac Deford.
In 1960, Adele and my grandfather faced a difficult decision when she became pregnant with her ninth. With eight children already and the overwhelming financial burden, Adele and her husband concluded they could not support a ninth child. Ultimately, Adele made the heart-wrenching decision to seek an abortion. This decision, undoubtedly agonizing, was a choice made with dignity.
However in an era when abortions were largely illegal, women like Adele had no safe, legal options. Desperate and with nowhere else to turn, Adele sought a backroom abortion. A few weeks following the procedure, Adele died from gas gangrene, a severe bacterial infection, and septic abortion. She was only 31 years old.
Adele’s passing extended beyond the loss of her own life. A husband lost his young, loving wife. Their eight children, including my mother, who was only 5 1/2 years old at the time, were left without their mother. Adele’s untimely death was made worse by the fact that my grandfather, recently disabled from an accident as a bridge welder, could not care for his children.
The state intervened callously and swiftly, but not with the support my family needed. Instead, they dismantled the family unit, sending my mother into a broken, under-resourced foster care system, marking her childhood with instability and uncertainty. It would take two decades before she was able to reunite with her biological family at the age of 26.
In our increasingly polarized political climate, electing public officials who can navigate divisions and find common ground is essential. Compromise is critical to effective governance. Yet, there are certain fundamental issues where compromise cannot be the answer, particularly when it comes to defending basic human rights.
I do not take seriously extreme politicians who champion severe abortion bans without showing any real commitment to supporting the foster care system and public education. Their efforts reveal a glaring inconsistency: they advocate for laws that can increase the number of children in need, yet they fail to allocate resources to ensure these children are well cared for and educated.
This lack of responsibility is not just a policy failure; it’s a moral failing. In Congress, I will challenge such hypocrisy and work tirelessly to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and yes, that includes the decision to become a mother or not.