By: Katie Yoder
The media race to promote the stories of women who have had abortions. But when women who survived abortions as babies speak up, the media insist they don’t exist.
On Monday, 42 Democratic and two independent senators voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Sponsored by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), the legislation aimed to “prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” In the vote’s aftermath, media outlets bashed the bill by claiming, among other things, that abortion survivors don’t exist.
“There is no such thing as an ‘abortion survivor,’” one Quartz headline announced on Feb. 25. Inside, reporter Annalisa Merelli accused the legislation of “peddl[ing] the false narrative that abortions happening later in pregnancies could result in live babies left to die by physicians who fail to provide care.”
She added that an “abortion is performed with the intention of ending a pregnancy, so there are no survivors.”
Other outlets and media writers chimed in.
On Twitter, Politico health reporter Alice Miranda Ollstein likewise noted the “bill mandating medical care for ‘abortion survivors’” on Feb. 25 and refrained from using the term in her story. Thor Benson, who writes for outlets including the Daily Beast, added on Feb. 26 that “There’s no such thing as an ‘abortion survivor.’”
“Ok I will write on the fake news of ‘abortion survivors,” Jennifer Gunter, an Ob-Gyn who has been published by the New York Times, decided on Feb. 27.
The only problem is, they aren’t fake. Abortion survivors are real and they have a voice.
Melanie Israel, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation, reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that from 2003 through 2014 there were at least “143 cases of infants surviving abortion.” Israel also listed states, like Florida, which found 17 cases in just one year.
Registered nurses, like Jill Stanek, the Susan B. Anthony List national campaign chair, have testified before congressional committees about watching babies left to die. Stanek shared one of her own experiences as an Illinois nurse before a House committee in 2000:
“One night, a nursing co-worker was taking an aborted Down’s syndrome baby who was born alive to our Soiled Utility Room because his parents did not want to hold him and she did not have time to hold him. I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. He was about 22 weeks old, weighed about a half a pound, and was about 10 inches long, about the size of my hand. He was too weak to move very much, expending any energy that he had trying to breathe. Toward the end of his life he was so quiet that I couldn’t tell if he was still alive unless I held him up to the light to see if his little heart was still beating through his chest wall.”
There are also the stories of abortion survivors that lived.
As recently as February, one abortion survivor’s story, told in a video released by the nonprofit Special Books by Special Kids, went viral with millions of views. In the interview, the mother of the abortion survivor said she obtained an abortion, but found out a month later that she was still pregnant. Her daughter, Carrie Fisher, struggles with disabilities – but she has forgiven her mother and, today, is happily married.
“I wouldn’t want guilt on anyone,” Fisher said. “I’ve accepted the things she did and she accepts the things I do, and we just love each other.”
Two of the most well-known abortion survivors, who have both testified before Congressional members, are Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen. Both of them survived attempted saline abortions.
“This method of abortion burns the baby inside and out, blinding and suffocating the child, who is then born dead usually within 24 hours. This is what I survived,” Jessen told the House Judiciary Committee in 2015. “Instead of dying, after 18 hours of being burned in my mother’s womb, I was delivered alive.”
In a 2016 interview, Jessen recognized the media’s reluctance to share her story.
“They just try to ignore me,” Jessen stressed of the media. “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.”
Jessen smiled and continued, “But I still get around.”