LAWRENCE, Kan. – “I was aborted and did not die.” That statement might sound like a headline from a supermarket tabloid.
But in the case of Gianna Jessen, 28, of Nashville, Tenn., it’s true.
Ms Jessen told 500 students at the University of Kansas that her mother was seven-and-a-half-months pregnant when she went to a Los Angeles clinic for an abortion in 1977. But the saline solution injected into her mother’s womb to abort the foetus somehow failed to accomplish its deadly task.
“By the sheer power of Jesus Christ,” she said, “I did not die that day.”
“The medical records state that I was born during a saline solution abortion,” Jessen said in a 2005 talk. “There’s no medical explanation of why I’m here. It’s like being burned alive in your mother’s womb for 18 hours. The abortionist on duty that day wasn’t there and I thank the Lord or he would have strangled or suffocated me.”
Ms Jessen’s early life was not much easier, until she was removed from the abusive foster home in which she had been placed and adopted by Penny Jessen.
Although the doctors had predicted the baby would be “no more than a vegetable”, unable to speak, see or walk, the kindly older woman spent hours with Jessen in intensive physical therapy that soon bore fruit.
In fact, none of the doctors’ predictions came true. By age four, Ms Jessen was able to walk with a walker and leg braces. Today, she walks without the aid of braces, walker or cane. Lifting leg weights has strengthened her legs and prevented her from falling down as often as in the past.
Now, her only visible disability is a limp. But she doesn’t let that hold her back. She told the students she had been running several miles daily in preparation for a 26-mile marathon in Nashville.
“The doctors said there was no hope and I would never progress beyond that point,” she said. “They said, ‘We know you’d never want to live like that.’ What arrogance. How can you look at any human life and say there is no hope?”
Ms Jessen said she has forgiven her biological mother, whom she has never met. But she criticised her mother’s selfishness and cautioned young women to avoid the same trap.
“My biological mother thought she was making a decision affecting only her,” she said. “If abortion is merely about women’s rights, then what were mine?”
Ms Jessen also said that she does not condemn any woman who has had an abortion. But she told any girl listening who was pregnant to find counselling and support rather than an abortion clinic.
Ms Jessen’s strong views have frequently put her in the public eye. She has testified twice before the U.S. Congress – in 1996 against partial-birth abortions and in 2000 in support of the Born Alive Infant Act. The born-alive act says any infant who is fully born and shows signs of life is considered a human person entitled to the full protection of the law – even if the baby is born during a failed abortion.
In 2001, following an abortion debate, Ms Jessen received a standing ovation from a crowd of supporters of legal abortion.
In 2002, she was invited to the White House to witness the signing of the Born Alive Infant Act by President George W. Bush.
Not everyone agrees with Ms Jessen’s viewpoint, however. When she was only 16, she testified before the Alabama Legislature. Afterward a woman in the audience told her, “Children with disabilities are a burden to society.”
“That shouldn’t be shocking because that’s where we’re heading as a society,” Ms Jessen said. “When does it end?
When we diminish life? What happens when it’s you?”
-By Monte Mace, CNS