To inspire means literally to breathe life into. People usually look to history, the Bible or newspapers to find individuals who have displayed some special quality of courage, faith or resiliency that motivates them to get up each morning and face the vicissitudes of daily life with hope and resignation. While I have encountered a number of teachers who have stirred me to higher academic achievement, I do not think anyone has inspired me more to celebrate human life more than Gianna Jessen. Gianna’s story is a very special one for me and millions of others! She is among a very small group of abortion survivors.
Her 17-year old mother aborted her during the eighth month of her pregnancy. In an effort to kill Gianna, the abortionist injected a saline solution into her mother’s womb. Gianna spent 18 hours swimming in the toxic fluid. According to Gianna, a saline abortion burns the baby inside and out, prompting some people to call these babies candy apples because of the sanguinary glow of their burns. I know that images, even verbal images such as these, are offensive to most Americans, but it is a given that the truth shall set us free. Lies and euphemisms will always wrap us in chains.
To the horror of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Southern California, a 2-pound Gianna survived her abortion on April 6, 1977. A conscientious nurse called an ambulance and had her transferred to a hospital. Gianna was put in foster care for 17 months with a woman who would eventually become her adoptive grandmother.
I first met Gianna after the Respect Life Convention in 1996. I was a member of the convention committee that joined her for dinner after her moving presentation. I was amazed by her freshness and the pure joy with which she relished the very gift of life that her mother had nearly denied her. Yet she bore no malice toward her. They had reconciled on a California beach when Gianna was just 12.
Gianna wasn’t expected to ever hold up her head, sit up, crawl or walk. Her birth and recovery were miracles. However her deprivation of oxygen in the womb left Gianna with cerebral palsy. It took her more than three years for her to learn how to walk.
As we spoke, she bore no visible scars. There was just a slight hint of a limp in her walk, which she playfully called Gianna’s walk. Now a beautiful young woman of 38, she runs marathons, writes and records songs and is the most endearing advocate for the sanctity of life anyone can imagine.
To me she is Planned Parenthood’s worst nightmare, an accident who has given flesh and blood proof to the stark reality of the deadly choice, which has snuffed out more than 300,000 lives each year under their auspices. Had the partial-birth abortion technique, designed to prevent mistakes like Gianna, been in use, I would never have met her.
Gianna reappeared on the national scene in 2008 during the presidential campaign to warn people about then State Senator Barack Obama’s voting record in Illinois. Four separate times he opposed a Born-Alive Bill, which would have protected children, such as Gianna, who had survived their abortions. Without this legal protection, abortion survivors are often put in a bucket and left alone in a closet or a bathroom to die. Unfortunately this infanticide occurs too frequently in Planned Parenthood’s abattoirs only even today.
Seeing her on the news during that campaign seven years ago reminded me of what she did for me. Before we met abortion had been mostly an abstraction. To me she is the incarnation of what respect life efforts are about. She will always be the most inspiring person I have ever met!
On a personal note, I have a son just a year older than she. I often think of the stark contrast between their relative births. As the Vitae Foundation is always saying, it has given me something to think about.