Friday, February 23, 2007

Gianna Jessen...

Abortion survivor tells story


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 tiniest thing."

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 Center.

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 years ago.

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 consequences.

"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."

Rich and I record Life on the Rock and watched this morning last night's episode and we were profoundly touched, completely amazed and in total awe to witness this lovely miracle speaking with Fr. Francis. Gianna was a guest on Life on the Rock this past Thursday night. And some suggest that we 'kill the unborn' if they might have a defect???

I know where the defect is, and it's not with the baby diagnosed...but with the murderous "culture of death" of the so-called elite and professionals who "know best" what to do with babies, or the elderly. Their answer? Kill them, as they might not 'live a complete, full life' and they might not "amount to anything" other words, they think they won't have a productive life to add to their wallets or retirement funds. Amazing Grace...look at Gianna and tell me she's not 'living life' or hasn't anything to offer us "normal" folk.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this story about Gianna. I too have seen her on Life on the Rock and am so amazed at her joy and peace that comes across the screen. She is such a beautiful woman. Thank you also for writing that last paragraph. I'm a mother of a little girl with Down Syndrome as well as a pro-life physician. Everyday I have to fight against the evil of the culture of death. It is so real and so ingrained in our society. I am seeing a new generation of people who know nothing else and don't think of questioning the status quo. Truly chilling. Judy M.

Joyful Catholics said...

Thank you Judy M. for your kind words. I have a friend with a daughter with Down Syndrome and Jennifer is a "light in my life" as is my cousin, who suffered lack of oxygen at birth 52 years ago.

Kathy in a group home in Beatrice NE. We take her out for her birthday every year for pizza, her favorite food, and then to Walmart for her new birhtday PJ's and she's truly an "angel." She shows me every year how to be "IN the MOMENT" and reminds me always to be 'happy and thankful' for everything. I have another cousin in CA. with Downs but haven't seen her in over 30 years. I was always aware of how special these souls are, that they know "something" I don't know...even though as a little girl, I didn't understand.

Now I understand that they are to remind us to be "like children... trusting, and forgiving" or we won't enter the kingdom of heaven. They love so unconditionally and they're so quick to forgive. God bless you and your 'fighting the good fight' out there in your profession. I will pray for you! I'm sure St. Gianna Beretta Molla is praying for you, too.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Susie for your prayers. There are days when I feel I am up against the gates of hell, but I know that it is other people's prayers who get me beyond the evil of the culture of death.
I love your stories about your experiences with your cousin and friend's daughter. I too had very little experience with the mentally handicapped (except for not very positive ones from my medical life) so when I was told that Christina Anne had DS, I was so scared and depressed. I turned to Mother Mary alot during that pregnancy and I received the strength I needed (I named her in honor of Mary's son and mother because of this!) Christina Anne truly is a joy to us all and I really believe she is closer to heaven and the community of saints than I will ever be!
A few years ago I was reading a book written by a mother with a child with DS, I think it was called The Angel behind the Rocking Chair. She wrote about how she felt that her son was in frequent contact with angels and about the special gifts these children give us mere mortals. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but whenever I saw my toddler daughter talking to the "air", I started to think that she too was talking to angels. Then, I few months ago, I told my children that we should name our guardian angels. My two oldest daughters took a long time trying to come up with names. I told them to ask their angel what his name was and it would come to them in their dreams that night. Then turned to Christina Anne and asked her what her angel's name was. Without missing a beat, she answered "Michael". I was stunned, I wasn't even sure if she knew what we were discussing. I like to thing that it is the Archangel Michael who is watching over her and protecting her when I'm not there.
I love that you mentioned St. Gianna Molla! It was after reading her biography a few years ago that I decided to live my faith more fully in my professional life and become a pro-life doctor. She is one of my favorite saints (and it is extra special that my 10 year-old daughter is named Gianna!)
I hope to come out to Nebraska in the near future to study at the Pope Paul VI Institute.
God Bless you and the work you do through your blog. Judy M.

Joyful Catholics said...

That would be great to have you come to Nebraska! I just started going to the PPVI Institute in Dec. for my health concerns. I love what they do, by helping so many with Godly counsel/medical needs based on Truth of God and His Church. Dr. Hilgers is quite a "medical maverick" that's for sure. What a God-send!

I named my guardian angel just a few months ago after talking to my friend in Wales who told me she named hers years ago. Mine is "JJ" for Judith Joan...two POWERFUL warrior women for Christ and his Church. And your name is Judy! Isn't that something?! You're a hero in my eyes, too.

I'm far from as saintly as Judith or Joan of Arc, but I "take up the sword" i.e. "pen" on my blogs and hope it will plant seeds of Truth for others to ponder and be blessed to grow in faith and sanctity. A little 'cog in the wheel' but hopefully a worthwhile cog.

Keep in touch!

Anonymous said...

Susie, "Gianna, Judith..." these can't be coincidences! I'll let you know when I'll be traveling to Nebraska, but I don't think it will be this year. I hope sometime in 2008. I'll be visiting your blog frequently as well! judy

Joyful Catholics said...

Thank Judy...and pop in to visit me at my other two blogs, if you're surfing around sometime. They're both on the link list on this blog, UNDER THE POETREE and KID SIS OF ST CLARE and feel free to check out the profile here and email when ever you want to our RECON address.

Thanks for your very kind and gracious comments!