On the morning of April 5, 1977, a 17-year-old girl – scared, alone, and 7 ½ months pregnant – set foot in a Los Angeles abortion clinic.
She had been advised to get a saline abortion – a procedure in which an injected saline solution burns a baby inside the womb, who is then delivered dead about 24 hours later. So she signed some papers, received the injection, and waited for the poison to run its course.
But the child, little Gianna Jessen, had other ideas.
Triumphantly, defiantly, and against all odds, Gianna entered this world after her own abortion. She was delivered – alive – in that same clinic on April 6th.
She should have been burned. She should have been blind. She should have been dead. And yet, at two and a half pounds, little Gianna was very much alive, albeit suffering the effects of the saline solution, which was intended to be lethal.
The nurse could have left her to die that day. But, mercifully, she instead called an ambulance. Little Gianna was transferred to a hospital, and her life was saved.
This was indeed an act of mercy! Even more importantly, it was just the beginning of Gianna’s story, comprising only the first chapter of her beautiful life.
The saline solution that had been injected to take her life didn’t have its intended effect, but it starved her brain of oxygen. So she was born with cerebral palsy, which left her with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Doctors said that this child – who was not supposed to live – would also never even be able to lift her head, let alone walk.
And yet here again, Gianna defied the odds. With the help of a loving adoptive mother, a walker, and leg braces, she was walking by 3 years old.
By the age of 14, she was speaking to audiences about her extraordinary birth and the exceptional life it made possible.
Since then, she has literally run marathons and trained to climb mountains.
And for years, she has traveled around the country – and the world – speaking and marching, limping one step at a time, for the unborn children who cannot.
Her accomplishments, especially in light of her disabilities, are breath-taking.
And yet, because of those disabilities, she was exactly the kind of baby that some say should be allowed to die after a botched abortion. Exactly the kind of baby that some might dismissively characterize as a “burden” on society.
Gianna Jessen’s life, Mr. President, shows that she is quite the opposite of a burden on all who have the good fortune to know her. As she puts it, she has been blessed with the “tremendous gift” of cerebral palsy. She adds, "I have more joy than I can ever articulate because of the obstacles I have overcome.”
But perhaps that is her truest and greatest achievement. For Gianna lives with a deep, authentic, contagious joy that she spreads wherever she goes. To listen to her, to talk to her, to know her is to know the joy of life.
A woman fully alive, indeed.
It is good that Gianna Jessen exists, Mr. President. Very good. Good for her. And also good for all of us.
Her life is not defined by what she can and cannot do; or whether she was originally “wanted.”
Her life is unrepeatable, irreplaceable, and of infinite and immeasurable worth.
She has made an indelible mark on this world, as only she could.
Today, we have a chance to stand up and defend the truth that Gianna’s life is worthwhile. That all babies’ lives are valuable and worth living, just like Gianna’s.
Women, like Gianna’s birth mother, deserve better than what many in our society have told them. They deserve to be protected, right alongside their babies.
Pro-life Americans like me believe children like Gianna should be protected in the womb. Both the essential moral principle of human dignity and the undisputed scientific facts of human biology insist on this point.
This bill, however, does not.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act takes no position on abortion, or the rights of the unborn.
It simply says that, in this country, when a child is born – even if by accident, even in the most dangerous place in the world for an infant – a Planned Parenthood clinic – he or she becomes a citizen of the United States under our Constitution, entitled to the full protection of our laws.
Boy or girl, black or white, rich or poor. Each deserves—paraphrasing the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln—an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. This is the essence of what it means to have rights, and to be entitled to the equal protection of our laws.
Among our inalienable rights is the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a concept that clearly encompasses the right not to be murdered. This bill will simply reaffirm that such fundamental rights extend not simply to the rich and powerful – but even to the furthest margins of our society, and to the most vulnerable and newest citizens of our nation.
This legislation should not be controversial. In fact, what is most remarkable here is the fact that outlawing the murder of the innocent—in the first moments of life—is even controversial among many members of this body.
Those objecting to this legislation, including the political media covering up the scandal, will say otherwise. But we know the truth.
And so do they.
I yield the floor.
As prepared for delivery.