Abortion Survivor Works for Life and Family Restoration

This excellent guest post is from Sandra Alcaide, Regent Law 2L and Family Law student:

Gianna Jessen survived a failed saline abortion attempt. On April 6, 1977, at the age of 17, Gianna's birth mother attempted to have an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic. She was 17 years old and 7 ½ months pregnant.[1] After being burned alive in the womb for 18 hours, Gianna was delivered alive. The abortionist was not in the room when Gianna was delivered, and thus was unable to complete the abortion. Gianna weighed two pounds, and remained in the hospital for three months. Ironically, the abortionist had to sign Gianna Jessen's birth certificate, noting in her medical records that she was born during a saline abortion.[2]


Gianna was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 17 months old. The doctors said she would never be able to lift her head – but she did. They said she would never be able to sit up straight – yet she ran her first marathon (26.2 miles, no easy feat) in 2005 in 7 ½ hours.[3]


If you believe life begins at conception, then you might consider all abortions to be brutal. However, saline abortions, like the one Gianna survived, are particularly brutal to the unborn child and dangerous to the mother. Such abortions can only be performed after 16 weeks of abortion, when enough fluid has accumulated in the amniotic fluid sac surrounding the baby. This is after the heartbeat has been detected, after the limbs have begun to grow, after the baby's head can turn and the baby can make facial expressions, after finger prints have begun to form and the baby can hear, after brain waves are detectable, after teeth have taken shape and fingernails have begun to form, after adult taste buds develop, after all organs are intact, and after the baby has passed the threshold of being able to feel pain.[4] A needle is inserted into the mother's abdomen, and amniotic fluid is replaced with a solution of concentrated salt - poison. The baby swallows the poison. The chemical solution causes burning and deterioration of the baby's skin. The baby usually dies within an hour, and the mother delivers a dead, shriveled up baby. "About 97% of mothers deliver their dead babies within 72 hours."[5]


Complications for the mother may include severe dehydration, damage to the uterus, seizures, coma, and death.[6] One can imagine the potential complications that can arise if a hypertonic saline solution is inadvertently inserted into the mother's bladder.


In Gonzalez v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, a federal statute regulation abortion procedures and banning partial birth abortions. Interestingly, the Court asserted that "the government undoubtedly 'has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.'"[7] That is quite an admirable interest. While the Court correctly upheld the ban on a "brutal and inhumane procedure" that would "further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life," perhaps Congress and the Court should continue to execute proper laws by banning all abortion methods that have a "disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant."[8] After all, despite the attempt to end Gianna Jessen's life with a saline abortion, she was born alive.


Miss Jensen is now an advocate for the pro-life movement. As a proponent of the sanctity of life, she asks the following question: "If abortion is about women's rights, then where were mine? There was no radical feminist screaming for my rights on that day."[9]


 For a short interview with Gianna Jessen – and a brief look into politics, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBWVSah6N5w.  For access to Gianna Jessen, see: http://www.giannajessen.com/.  To learn more about the law's effects on life and families get the free download of "Roe's Affects on Family Law" at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2441274.


[1] Elizabeth Day, Gianna Jessen was aborted at 7½ months. She survived. Astonishingly, she has forgiven her mother for trying to kill her., The Telegraph, Dec. 4, 2005,


[2] Gianna Jessen Abortion Survivor in Australia Part 1, YouTube (Sept. 10, 2008) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPF1FhCMPuQ.

[3] Day, supra note 1.

[4] When Does a Baby Have A Heartbeat?, New Health Guide, http://www.newhealthguide.org/When-Does-A-Baby-Have-A-Heartbeat.html (last visited Oct. 19, 2014).

[5] Abortion Techniques: Instillation Methods, National Right to Life, http://www.nrlc.org/archive/abortion/ASMF/asmf9.html (last visited Oct. 19, 2014).

[6] Saline Abortions are cruel and dangerous, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, http://www.mccl.org/saline-abortion-cruel-and-dangerous.html (last visited Oct. 19, 2014).

[7] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 128 (2007) (quoting Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 731 (1997)).

[8] Id. at 157–58. For an explanation of the legal Dilation and Evacuation procedure, see Dr. Tony Levatino, M.D., A Medical Doctor describes the Dilation and Evacuation Procedure, Priests for Life, http://www.priestsforlife.org/resources/medical/delevatino.htm (explaining that during the blind procedure of Dilation and Evacuation, an unborn child is torn apart, limb by limb, and the skull is crushed while within the womb).

[9] Day, supra note 1.


  1. Thank you Sandra for this meaningful post! While I'm not satisfied with the Supreme Court precedents on abortion law, I am at least comforted to see that the Supreme Court identified the partial birth abortion procedures as "inhumane." When the proponents of abortion and the courts can take a detailed look at the abortion procedures, they might give a second thought about the Supreme Court precedents. As Gianna's life demonstrated, the fetus and the unborn babies are not mere "objects" - but breathing lives and the gifts from God.

  2. Sandra, excellent work on an important and global issue. Stories like this remind me of how important the political process is, and that voting for elected officials with an agenda to promote the dignity of the human person is very important. Perhaps pro-life legislation such as the "Personhood Amendment" or "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Amendment" coupled with this kind of case law will set our legal system back in the right direction.