by Pastor Michael Salemink
Sometimes abortions fail. Sometimes the babies make it to birth. Sometimes they even receive names.
Hospital staff delivered Melissa Ohden after five days of in-utero saline poisoning. Then they discarded her with biohazard waste in a utility closet and told her mother she’d died. Thanks to a nurse who heard her newborn cries and an adoptive family who opened their home, she recounts her ordeal worldwide.
Gianna Jessen endured the same abortion method in the very same year. Her birth certificate bears the abortionist’s signature. She came away with cerebral palsy and needed foster care until age four. Claire Culwell made it through an abortion that worked. Her twin sibling did not. The thirteen-year-old mother had no idea she was carrying multiple pregnancies until the condition persisted. Sarah Elizabeth Brown’s mother elected to undergo abortion in the ninth month of gestation. The abortionist’s toxin injection missed Sarah’s heart but found her brain. It didn’t prevent birth but did blind her, cause a stroke at six months, and claim her life in kidney failure after five years.
Transgressions like these sent Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell to jail in 2013. The court convicted him of 21 illegal late-term abortions and three first-degree murders for severing the spinal cords of infants who survived his abortion procedures. And the proprietor of a Washington, D.C., facility more recently stated on video that he would provide no medical assistance to children whose abortions prove unsuccessful in his clinic.
Authorities have publicly recognized the reality for decades. (In 1981, Dr. Willard Cates, national director of abortion surveillance, affirmed approximately “400 to 500 abortion live births” every year.) But only ten states require clinics or physicians to report failed abortions. They all have different definitions for “survival.” One stipulates the fetus must have reached a certain gestational age. Others accept nothing less than a beating heart or voluntary movement as proof. Still, between 2016 and 2018, three states reported 40 babies born alive after abortion attempts. Michigan alone reported (another) 11 from 2008-2013, and Texas had six just in 2019. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control officially accounted 143 for the span of 2003-2014. The Canadian Institute of Health admitted 766 late-term live-birth abortions over a five-year period. And a law professor’s research into incomplete government statistics in Australia found more than 800 such cases in the last decade. Available data reveals an “abortion failure rate” of about 0.2%, and that means an estimate of over 1,900 of them in our country every year.
Several congressional representatives have introduced legislation to address it. (An earlier statute from 2002 [“The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act”] simply declares that all newborns, regardless of their parturition process, qualify as legal human beings and persons. It has produced no prosecutions.) The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would mandate that babies born after termination attempts receive the same (basic!) medical care as any other child delivered at the same gestational age. And it would levy penalties against providers who refuse or neglect that support. But majorities in one chamber or the other have been declining it for several years in a row. One state’s governor—a pediatric neurologist—asserted that the decision whether or not to intervene on the baby’s behalf after an abortion that didn’t avert birth belongs to the woman and the doctor.
We need these tiny neighbors. Their lives come as gifts and privileges to enrich our world and our race: “When she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). They reflect how Almighty God creates, redeems, and calls each one of us special and precious: “On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Psalm 22:10). They embody the gracious gentleness of our Lord and Savior coming among us: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5). They reveal the weakness of our sinful nature and teach us helpless dependence upon divine mercy: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). And they call forth our courage and compassion for the vulnerable among us: “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” … “The one who showed him mercy.” … “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37).
Melissa Ohden’s Abortion Survivors Network has designated September as Babies Survive Abortions Awareness Month. Pray for the little victims. Share these details with someone who doesn’t know. Appeal to your elected representatives for local and federal policies that protect them. Implore your medical professionals to advocate and undertake life-saving action especially for these unpopular patients. And receive every individual as a heavenly blessing, no matter what their inconveniences or how they got here.