Dem Campaign Calls Abortion Survivor Story a "Despicable Lie"
by Deal W. Hudson 9/24/08
Gianna Jessen survived a saline abortion 31 years ago. "I didn't have any burns anywhere on my body -- it was amazing." The saline, however, did leave Jessen with a mild case of cerebral palsy, a slight limp, and a life-long commitment to oppose abortion.
Jessen is featured in a television ad presently running in Ohio and New Mexico, criticizing N.'s four votes against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA).
I asked her why she teamed with Jill Stanek's organization, Born Alive Truth, to make the ad. "It's very important for the American people to know how [N.] feels about the most vulnerable among us," she told me. (Stanek is the Chicago nurse who began lobbying to secure legal protections for babies born alive during abortions.)
Jessen has been active in the anti-abortion movement for 16 years and testified before Congress in 2002 about the BAIPA. At those hearings she met Stanek, who approached her several months ago about doing the ad. "I was thrilled to do it. It's as if I have been preparing many years for this moment."
N. responded to Jessen's commercial with an ad of his own, dismissing it as "truly vile" and a "despicable lie." He wasn't the only one: Jonathan Martin, a reporter for Politico, called Jessen "a self-proclaimed abortion survivor." When Stanek produced the evidence of Jessen's claims, Politico removed Martin's slam.
Jessen lives in Nashville where she came with her adopted family 16 years ago. After she survived the abortion, she was given back to her biological mother but was shortly placed with a foster family. At the age of three, Jessen was adopted by her foster mother's daughter.
I asked about her mother's reaction to the failed abortion. "I don't know how she felt at the time. But she came out of nowhere two years ago to meet me at an event. She was a broken woman and quite angry. I told her I had forgiven her for what she did, even though she didn't want any forgiveness."
She isn't concerned about the way N. describes her ad. "I don't really care what he says. I know he voted four times against proper medical care for babies born alive. That's the kind of man he is." So how have people reacted to the commercial? "Some of [N.'s] supporters will be less than kind, but generally the reaction has been very positive."
Jessen spends her time as a speaker, writer, and real estate investor. She took up distance running several years ago because she "wanted to feel God help me in that situation, to have him carry me over the finish line," though she's given up marathons.
No doubt Jessen, whose visibility is growing daily, will need a similar attitude as she is buffeted by the political winds of a presidential campaign. Since her ad started airing in Ohio, polls there have indicated a shift in McCain's direction. No wonder the N. campaign responded so quickly.
Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).