Abortion survivor tells story
By AMY WHITE
see amazing vimeo clip of Gianna Jessen
(please notify us if this vimeo is removed)
Gianna Jessen came into the world as a surprise. Her 17-year-old
mother knew she was pregnant. She also knew she didn't want to be. She
underwent an abortion procedure, having toxic saline solution injected
into the womb during the third trimester.
Jessen, then in the womb for 7½ months, spent 18 hours in the
solution. "It burns the baby inside and out," she said. "(The mother)
is to deliver a dead baby within 24 hours." But when a 2-pound Jessen
emerged, she was alive.
"I did not die that day," Jessen said. "I was delivered alive in a
Los Angeles County abortion clinic in a room full of teenage girls who
had already had the saline injections and were feeling their children
die inside of them."
Jessen will tell her story Friday at a Sanctity of Life Rally in
Modesto sponsored by the "11th Hour" TV program.
Raised in California, Jessen lives in Nashville, Tenn. She has
traveled the world since she was 14, telling of her experience.
Jessen spent her first three months in a hospital incubator.
Doctors at the hospital did not expect her to live, she said. But she
did. She was then put in emergency foster care, before being placed at
17 months with a foster mother who would become her adoptive
grandmother. Afflicted with cerebral palsy resulting from lack of
oxygen in the womb, Jessen was "32 pounds of dead weight," she said.
She wasn't expected to hold up her head, sit up, crawl or walk.
Her foster mother worked with Jessen, who at age 3½ began to walk
with a walker and leg braces. Today, she walks with a slight limp in
her left leg.
Jessen has done indoor rock climbing and is training for the Music
City marathon in Nashville in a few months. She plans to take swing or
tango dance lessons after that. Jessen also writes and performs songs,
ranging from love ballads to social commentary.
"Never say never," she said in a recent phone interview. "A person
and God always have the opportunity to progress. No matter what point
you are at, you can always do something, even if it is just the
On Christmas when she was 12, Jessen learned she had survived an
abortion attempt. Before, when she had asked why she had cerebral
palsy, her adoptive mother — the daughter of her foster mother — told
her hers was a traumatic, premature birth. But that day when she
asked, her mother decided Jessen was ready to hear the truth. She told
her that her biological mother was young and without hope.
"I was aborted, right?" Jessen asked. Her adoptive mother confirmed
it. Jessen was calm.
"It must have been the Lord, because I didn't freak out," Jessen
remembered. "I totally believe that the Lord Jesus spared my life and
I would not be walking today if it were not for the grace of God and
the power of Christ. I know that when you need God to walk every day,
you know that God is real."
Jessen said she never dwelled on feelings of rejection, and someday
wants to have or adopt children herself.
Louise Shatswell, producer of "The 11th Hour," said she hopes those
who hear Jessen will be touched by her story and "that their eyes will
be opened to the reality of life at that stage of life."
The rally will include a question-and-answer session with Jessen,
as well as counselors and literature from the Modesto Pregnancy
It's impossible to know exactly how many babies survive abortion
procedures, but it is rare, said Jessen, who met 11 others — ranging
in age from young children to 65 years old — at a conference about 10
Shatswell thinks Jessen's appearance brings another view to a
society that endorses the idea that "if you don't want it, get rid of
it," she said. "I don't believe the majority of people who get
abortions are really informed about what they are doing.
"She is a living example of an unborn child being a child and not
being a thing, a glob, an unidentified piece of nothing," Shatswell
said. "It's a real-life living baby … and the sanctity of life that
the Bible gives doesn't sanction killing a child, whether in the womb
or outside the womb."
If a woman told her she was considering an abortion, Jessen said
she would listen to her, then lead her to a pregnancy crisis center
for tests and counseling.
"I would say that choosing to have an abortion is something she
would never forget," said Jessen, who advocates adoption.
"Can't we just give a little and say, 'I may not be the best mother
for this child, but I love this child enough to sacrifice for it'?"
she asked. "Isn't that the ultimate love?"
Jessen is conscious that examples speak louder than words. She
often talks to young people about the value of chastity, modesty and
honor. She wants to remind people that all of their choices have
"My biological parents made some really poor choices," she said. "I
forgive them for what they did (but) I live every day with the result
of the 'choice' that my biological mother made 27 years ago. So it's
ridiculous to think our choices on a moment-by-moment basis only
affect us. They always affect someone else, for good or ill."
Jessen is sometimes unprepared for the grief that pours out from
others when they hear her story. "Women who have had abortions have
come up to me crying, saying, 'I wish I had never done this. I had no
idea the pain I would live with for the rest of my life,'" she said.
Men, too, have talked to her of feeling powerless or regretful
about supporting an abortion. "At the end of the day, I do a lot of
listening," Jessen said.
It's not all listening. She met President Bush in 2002 and has
appeared before Congress, including speaking against partial-birth
abortion in 1999 and in support of the Born-Alive Infants Protection
Act in 2000.
She said she doesn't often think about her mother's abortion. "I
just spend my life trying to smile and overcome," she said.
"Sometimes, it does hit me, 'Oh, my gosh, I was aborted; that's huge.'
There are days I think about it and I think, 'This is amazing.' But my
whole life has been, so far, kind of an adventure. I really look at
life that way."
Gianna Jessen will speak at 7 p.m. Friday in the Modesto High
School auditorium. An interview with Jessen will appear on the "11th
Hour" TV program from 6 to 7 a.m. Feb. 4. Check listings at
For information about the program, call 526-9700. For more about
Jessen, call 615-794-2964 or e-mail
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