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If you’ve been following the Democratic candidates online you’ve likely noticed that Amy Klobuchar’s 24-year-old daughter, Abigail Klobuchar Bessler, frequently appears in her mother’s social media and at campaign events. In fact, Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty recently declared “Amy Klobuchar’s daughter wins Iowans for her mother, one hotdish at a time.”
It is fitting that Abigail is one of Klobuchar’s biggest supporters and her most popular surrogate, as her birth is the reason why her mom entered politics in the first place. Klobuchar was wheeled out of the hospital, without her baby, 24 hours after giving birth and decided to fight to save other mothers from the same fate.
Back in 1995, Abigail was born without the ability to swallow, and as The Washington Post‘s Marc Fisher reports, Klobuchar was soon discharged and forced to leave her baby behind. Klobuchar and her husband checked into a nearby hotel so that they could return to the hospital every three hours to pump breastmilk for Abigail.
Klobuchar wore her hospital gown for three days, going back and forth from the hospital to the hotel. Her experience sounds extreme in the age of family centered care, but it was pretty normal at the time. Back in the mid-90s rapid postpartum discharge was a common occurrence in American hospitals, as insurance companies aimed to keep costs down by getting moms out of the hospitals ASAP.
“I saw it as injustice for moms. I thought if men had babies, this would never happen. It was one of those one-size-fits-all policies that just didn’t allow for any humanity. You’ve been up for 48 hours, you’re a brand-new mom and you have no idea what you’re doing, and they kick you out. You don’t know if your child’s going to live,” Klobuchar said, decades later.
She wasn’t a politician yet, but she was a lawyer and a new mom determined to change things, so, as she told Lisa DePaulo for Elle back in 2010, Klobuchar gathered up “six of her ‘closest pregnant friends'” and successfully lobbied for Minnesota to guarantee new moms a 48-hour hospital stay.
“When some lobbyists wanted to delay the time until the bill took effect,” Klobuchar recalled, they had to ask when it should take effect. “All my pregnant friends raised their hands and said, `Now,” she said.
It worked, and the mom who was wheeled out of the hospital too soon became a mom on the road to political success.
In 2006 Klobuchar became the first woman elected as senator in Minnesota’s history. In 2020 she hopes to be the first woman elected as President. She placed third in the New Hampshire primary this week, prompting pundits to declare her a “serious candidate.”
Abigail Klobuchar Bessler says her mom has always been serious about fighting for families, and the 24-year-old is so serious about supporting her mom that she’s using up all her PTO from her job in New York City Council’s office to do it, telling TIME: “Who better to talk about my mom than someone who’s known her her whole life?”