Twelve months ago, Gianna Jessen testified against Planned Parenthood, saying during a congressional hearing that her biological mother was seven and a half months pregnant when she was advised to undergo an abortion by saline — which “burns the baby inside and out, blinding and suffocating the child, who is then born dead, usually within 24 hours.”
“Instead of dying,” Jessen said on Capitol Hill, “after 18 hours of being burned in my mother’s womb, I was delivered alive in an abortion clinic in Los Angeles on April the 6th, 1977.”
“Doctors,” she said, “did not expect me to live.”
Jessen would become a leading anti-abortion advocate, speaking around the world and meeting with American lawmakers about abortion policy. Her most recent activism has focused on federal funding protocols for abortion, a central point of contention during the presidential campaign, as well as born-alive infants’ rights.
In fact, Jessen was in Pennsylvania in 2002 when President George W. Bush signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which grants legal protection to babies born alive after attempted abortions. “It’s important that you’re here, to send a signal that you’re dedicated to the protection of human life,” Bush said to Jessen and others at the signing ceremony.
On Sept. 23, the 39-year-old activist returned to the Hill for a subcommittee hearing on abortion. The focus of the discussion: The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would expand Bush’s act to ensure the babies receive the same medical care as any other born at the same gestational age, and the Hyde Amendment, which, for the past 40 years, has generally barred the use of federal Medicaid money to pay for abortions.
“Apart from Jesus himself, the only reason I am alive is the fact that the abortionist had not yet arrived at work that morning,” she said.
Jessen says she has cerebral palsy due to a lack of oxygen to her brain during the abortion attempt.
“And cerebral palsy, make no mistake, is a tremendous gift,” she said. “I don’t know if any of you understand — maybe you do — what a tremendous honor it is to have to lean on the strong arm of Jesus all the way to heaven.”
The Hyde Amendment, which first was approved by Congress in 1976 and has since been attached as a rider to annual appropriations bills, states that federal funds cannot be used for abortion services, except in instances in which a woman’s life is in danger, or in instances of rape and incest.
This year’s Democratic Party platform vows to “oppose — and seek to overturn — federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has condemned it as well as other policies for “making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”
In a recent letter to anti-abortion rights leaders, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump slammed his Democratic opponent for wanting to repeal the Hyde Amendment and promised to make it “permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”
Reproductive rights weren’t discussed at the presidential debate Monday — but the topic was on the minds of many voters: According to Google Trends, “abortion” was the second most-searched issues for both candidates.
Amid the contentious debate, Jessen explained Friday in Washington how she lived through an attempted abortion.
Here is her testimony, which veers from her prepared statement at times:
Thank you, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak with you this morning.
I wish to appeal not only to those present within this chamber today, but to my nation.
We are here to discuss infanticide. I am greatly troubled that this hearing is even necessary, and that such a law to prevent infanticide must be constructed in the United States of America at all.
Many Americans have no idea that babies can even live through abortions and are often left to die. But this does happen. I know this because I was born alive in an abortion clinic after being burned in my mother’s womb for 18 hours.
My medical records clearly state the following: Born during saline abortion, April 6, 1977, 6 a.m., two and a half pounds. Triumphantly, I entered this world.
Apart from Jesus himself, the only reason I am alive is the fact that the abortionist had not yet arrived at work that morning. Had he been there, he would have ended my life by strangulation, suffocation or simply leaving me there to die.
Instead, I lived and have the gift of cerebral palsy as a direct result of lack of oxygen to my brain while surviving an abortion.
And cerebral palsy, make no mistake, is a tremendous gift. I don’t know if any of you understand — maybe you do — what a tremendous honor it is to have to lean on the strong arm of Jesus all the way to heaven. It is my honor, in a country that doesn’t wish to speak his name, I will.
By the grace of God, in my case, a nurse called an ambulance and had me transferred to a hospital. That nurse saved my life and I am profoundly grateful to her for this.
Those who wish to justify such unspeakable evil, such as leaving a baby without proper medical care to die, have become masters of the manipulation of language, intimidation and defaming their opponents to achieve their wicked aims.
As a nation, we are continuously exchanging the truth for a lie. We have neglected our soul. What will it take for us to awaken from our numbness and indifference regarding this? Will we ever wake?
I am confounded as well by the passivity so often demonstrated by otherwise good and just men; by the fact that we must plead with those in power to give the most vulnerable infants among us, even one moment of their attention.
This is a bipartisan issue, and I think it’s important for the American people to weigh at this hour, whether or not they wish to elect someone to the highest office in the land that favors infanticide. Because that is what we are speaking of here, a child, exactly as I was, that had the audacity to live through her mother’s abortion and needed immediate and proper care.
So I would like to ask Mr. Trump to tell me, and you, where he specifically stands on this issue, and I ask the same of Mrs. Clinton.
I would also like to ask Senator Mitch McConnell to force a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act before the end of this September.
I have faced the consequences of our choices as a nation (as evidenced by my cerebral palsy.) So if you choose to do nothing, I believe I at least deserve to know why you find this abhorrent practice tolerable, and I would respectfully ask that you tell me directly.
It seems in some ways, we have lost our way in this beautiful nation. But it needn’t be so. We have only to remember that we are lent each breath, that we are all engraved upon the hands of God, and therefore, cannot for a single moment, be forgotten by him. We need only to remember Jesus, who took me from my mother’s womb, to be his own.
Jessen, who was put into foster care and later adopted, said earlier this year that she has been sharing her story despite the fact that some won’t listen.
“They just try to ignore me,” Jessen said, citing the media, according to LifeNews.com. “Because I don’t think they can really say anything to me — so their strategy has been, ‘We’re just gonna not talk to her pretty much at all.’
“But I still get around.”
This post has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly identified the recipients of a Trump campaign letter.