Just eight months into Tammy Duckworth’s 2004 deployment in Iraq, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded through the Blackhawk helicopter she was flying. As she wrote in a 2015 piece for Politico, “My right leg was vaporized; my left leg was crushed and shredded against the instrument panel.”
That day could have easily been the end of Senator Duckworth’s life, but instead, 14 years later, she is a wife, mother, and a Democratic senator from Illinois. She is 50, a double amputee as a result of the injuries she sustained in the helicopter crash, and this spring, she will give birth to her second child — which will make her the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office.
While the lawmaker is noteworthy for many reasons, it is Duckworth’s pregnancy that has resulted in her most widespread attention yet. Since a senator giving birth while in office is something the (historically male) Senate has been grossly unprepared for, Sen. Duckworth is now fighting to change the rules to make more room for working moms — and to ensure a smoother road for more female senators to come.