Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Why The Gianna Jessen ‘Botched Abortion’ Ad Is Inaccurate

This anti-Obama ad featuring Gianna Jessen, the survivor of a botched abortion, is powerful and moving. It vividly shows the horrors of late term abortions, and reminds us of the powerfully important issues at stake in the abortion debate – including ideas that politicians like to sometimes gloss over. However, the one thing it does not prove is its central political claim: “My name is Gianna Jessen, born 31 years ago after a failed abortion. But if Barack Obama had his say, I wouldn’t be here.” Here’s why. Pro-life advocates were recommending “Born Alive” legislation because of what they viewed as a growing problem: some doctors, courts and lawyers were operating on the assumption that babies could be left to die if the doctor viewed them as not viable. Pro-life activists believed that was outrageous, and “viability” should have nothing to do with it. If they came out alive, then they were alive. Period. Through the “Born Alive” legislation, they could insure that non-viable babies would not be killed, and that borderline infants would not be maliciously classified as non-viable. In other words, the key legal goal was not protecting viable infants – who already were protected under law – but non-viable infants and those on the borderline. Gianna Jessen, by her own account, was a clear “viable” infant. She was aborted at seven and half months, and therefore would have almost certainly been covered by any existing statute. Jessen points out that one of the reasons she likely survived was that the abortionist wasn’t there that day. She may well be right. An abortionist has a conflict of interest: he would have an incentive to declare that any baby produced through a botched abortion was non-viable. To state anything else would be to admit to horribly botching the abortion. It is certainly possible that the doctor would have broken the law. But it would have been an existing law that he was breaking. As Jill Stanek, the pro-life activist who has championed this cause wrote me, “Don’t know 1977 CA abortion/personhood laws, but I expect overtly killing a 29-1/2 gestational week baby would have been illegal. That said, I’m sure it was and is done all the time.” If Gianna Jessen had been killed it wouldn’t have been because of the lack of a good law, it would have been because the doctor violated the law. Killing Jessen after the birth would have been illegal, with or without the Born Alive bill. Now, I write this not as a defense of Obama’s position or a critique of the Born Alive bill. In a separate post, I describe why I think Obama was wrong (and also why I think the issue isn’t quite what the pro-lifers say either). But my point here is that the case of Gianna Jessen may raise awareness about the sanctity of life. It may make a strong case for a ban on late term abortions. The one thing it doesn’t do is prove the importance of the Born Alive bill. Obama’s position was that viable fetuses should be protected – his disagreement was over non-viable and borderline fetuses — it not accurate, as the ad says, that “if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be here.”

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Day Gardner

posted September 26, 2008 at 8:01 am

We are hearing of more and more babies who are younger than Gianna Jessen’s 7 months surviving and thriving! Their have been babies born to mothers who were less than 6 months pregnant–yet the children are also thriving. ALL children who are born alive ARE viable in God’s eyes. Abortionists like to play at being God–they seem to thrive on being ‘THE’ person, (though only mere mortals)to grant life or take it away. If a child survives the sickening atrocity of being burned alive by chemicals, or some other gruesome abortion,she should not be tortured again by being stabbed, suffocated, strangulation, or dumped in a barrel to await death. All children who survive abortion by some miracle, or blessing deserve to be protected by the laws of this great country. Any child killed after being born alive is infanticide–viability has nothing to do with it.

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posted September 26, 2008 at 9:11 am

“All children who survive abortion by some miracle, or blessing deserve to be protected by the laws of this great country.”
Excellent! Then I assume you are working to help advance universal health care, so that these “miracles” can have good post-natal and well-baby care regardless of the economic status of their mother. I assume that you are working to advance programs that would improve the economic status of poor, single mothers, so that they can better support their newly born children.
Or are you like most pro-lifers in that you are all for regulation and laws, but won’t give up a penny or lift a finger yourself to help?

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posted September 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Or are you like most pro-lifers in that you are all for regulation and laws, but won’t give up a penny or lift a finger yourself to help?
Spoken like somebody who couldn’t be bothered to look in the phone book under “Crisis Pregnancy Center”.

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posted September 26, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Obama believes that every woman who chooses abortion deserves a dead baby and has set out to make sure that goal is achieved as often as possible. He also believes that a teenager who gets pregnant should not be punished with a baby.
You are trying to finesse & nuance the differences between the non-viable and viable. Your column reminds me of Obama’s answer to any and every question he is ever asked….with the uh’s, um’s, ah’s, and hems and haws edited out.
Gianna would be dead if Obama had his way and his despicable ad to the contrary is the most vile and disgusting ad so far in this election cycle.
God help you both on judgment day. Oh, wait….it will be too late.

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Jill Stanek

posted September 27, 2008 at 8:35 am

I’m writing as executive director of, the originator of the Gianna ad.
Jessen said in the ad, “if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be here.”
She did not say, “If Illinois law had its way….” or for that matter, “If California law had its way.”
Jessen’s statement had nothing to do with IL or CA law. It focused squarely on Barack Obama and his strong opposition to giving legal status to abortion survivors and providing them medical care.
Have you read Obama’s 2001 and 2002 floor speeches from the IL Born Alive Infants Protection Act debate? Have you perused Obama’s website?
If so you would read irrefutable evidence of Obama’s disregard for the postnatal personhood of abortion survivors.
For instance, there is this from Obama’s own “factcheck” page about an earlier component of IL’s Born Alive Act, demonstrating he clearly does not believe abortion survivors like Jessen warrant legal or medical protection:
(And if that graphic from Obama’s site does not show up when my comment goes live, it reads: “Language Clearly Threatening Roe: (c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.”)
Given merely the above, how could one determine any other than Obama believes killing abortion survivors like Jessen at birth is nothing more than 4th trimester abortions?
Nevertheless, I will explain why one would be incorrect to hinge one’s defense of Obama in this case on IL abortion law.
My information comes from attorney Paul Linton, who repesented the American Academy of Medical Ethics when 15 years ago it opposed the US District Court’s decision to enjoin much of IL’s Abortion Act of 1975.
One section of the IL Abortion Act enjoined in the 1993 Herbst v. O’Malley decision included the definitions of “born alive,” “live born,” and “live birth.”
To restate, there was no enforceable definition of “born alive” in IL law when Obama opposed IL’s Born Alive Infants Protection Act.
The IL Born Alive Act would have restored that language. By opposing Born Alive, Obama was agreeing with the Herbst decision that an infant born alive as the result of an abortion should not be protected by the IL Criminal Code.
Further, there are 2 loopholes in the IL Abortion Act.
1. The IL Abortion Act applies only to viable infants, as you stated, while Born Alive applies to all live-born infants, regardless of viability. In other words, the former dealt with viability, the latter with live birth. Thus, in the case of the live birth of a child who was determined not to be viable at the time the abortion was committed, the 1975 law did not apply.
2. The one determining a baby’s viability according to the IL Abortion Act is the abortionist, and s/he is allowed to determine viability pre-birth. Rational people, as you stated, understand the potential for the very person trying to kill the baby pre-birth to subjectively assess the baby’s likelihood of survival post-birth.
That said, the IL Abortion Act states that in the event the abortionist determines a baby s/he is trying to kill might survive and might be viable, s/he was to call a 2nd doctor to assess the abortion survivor at birth.
And in this audio clip from Obama’s 2002 IL Senate floor debate, he argued against making that very call, stating doing so would be a “burden” to the aborting mother’s “original decision.” Hear for yourself:
Obama’s born alive but let die speech on mp3
(If the above mp3 does not work when my comment goes live, hear it at
Jill Stanek

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posted September 28, 2008 at 8:39 am

He also believes that a teenager who gets pregnant should not be punished with a baby.
A baby should never be looked at as a punishment. What kind of life do you think a child who is visited upon parents as a punishment will have?

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E Dabrowski

posted September 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I was particularly impressed by the clarity of Jill Stanek’s explanations. Thanks Jill, the detail was very instructive.
Jill said, “2. The one determining a baby’s viability according to the IL Abortion Act is the abortionist, and s/he is allowed to determine viability pre-birth.”
So the Illinois law already allowed viability of the baby to be determined pre-birth.
However, from Obama’s own web site
Obama said, “Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements of the Constitution, we’re saying they are persons entitled to the kinds of protections provided to a child, a 9-month-old child delivered to term…That determination then essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place.”
Logically then Obama was saying that a determination of pre-viability of the baby would forbid abortions, but he would have known as Jill outlined, that the Illinois law permitted the abortionist to determine pre-viability. Where does this leave Obama? Clearly he espouses that the abortionist shouldn’t even follow the permissions allowed in Illinois law to save a viable baby. Obama doesn’t want a finding of pre-viability by the abortionist. Then in a decision which ensures that the baby is either killed or left to die, Obama voted 4 times against legislation affording protection to born alive infants, which if enacted, would have preserved a life, a living beating heart. It would also have sent a strong message and onus on the abortionist to comply with the IL law and honestly make a determination of pre-viability pre-birth as the law already required (but wan’t being adhered to). The Infant Protects Act would have necessitated the second physician to enter the room and provide an assessment of viability without the burden of conflict of interest that guides the decision making of the abortionist.
Jill thanks for pointing out the detail of what Obama really meant and actions he took. It’s is very useful to check the public record of Obama given he is standing for public office and the protection of viable babies is at stake.
Well done Gianna on your courageous stand and inspired leadership on issues of life and thank you for your integrity and highest regard for life and the human person. Thank you too for journeying to Australia recently and inspiring many in our nation.
Edward Dabrowski
Federal Director
Shared Parenting Council of Australia

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posted September 30, 2008 at 3:16 am

I propose that we apply some logic and common sense to this issue.
Annenberg’s fact check states “there are already laws in Illinois, which Obama has said he supports, that protect these children even when they are born as the result of an abortion. Illinois compiled statute 720 ILCS 510/6 states that physicians performing abortions when the fetus is viable must use the procedure most likely to preserve the fetus’ life; must be attended by another physician who can care for a born-alive infant; and must “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion.” Failure to do any of the above is considered a felony.”
Since the laws he voted against neither added to nor reduced the protections already in place, how can his votes, in good conscience, be considered supporting infanticide?
“In good conscience” may be exactly what is lacking in these accusations.

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Bernie Britt

posted October 14, 2008 at 10:51 pm

What does this have to do with Senator Obama. What about Ms. Jessen mother. She should take the responsibility for this botched abortion. She is the one who was being selfish for not wanting her child to live. People are always wanting to blame someone else for their mistakes. If her mother didn’t want to have a baby she should not have gotten pregnant. People are so selfish, and that is what Senator Obama stresses at his convention speech, we need to take some responsibility for our actions ourselves. The president has no authority over abortions, these matters are taken up by the Supreme Court. They are the ones who would rule on issues like these. Please stop trying to blame everyting on Mr. Obama and take responsibility for our own mishaps and botches in life. Blame your mama, she is the one who did it. OK!

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Wally Watson

posted November 5, 2008 at 10:51 am

Aren’t you missing the point? The point is that ALL abortion is anethema to our Holy God! To believe otherwise is in direct opposition to God’s view of the sanctity of human life; and flies in the face of Christ’s sacrifice for ALL sin. The problem is that as Christians we have lost our distinction from the culture at large and have accepted the lies. Every pre-born child is a viable baby precious to God and to its parents. Lets get back on track and honor God’s word and the principles that it stands for.

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Dave AKA lambsev

posted February 20, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Thank you Wally Watson for saying: “The point is that ALL abortion is anethema to our Holy God!”
d. severy copyright © 2005
Each one a mystery, a labyrinth untold.
Steeped now in secrecy, but ready to unfold.
No man knows, save He who rose:
What tale will be told, o let my people go.
Perfection went away, leaving us to groan.
Blood poured upon the earth, o how man does roam.
Far from the Way he knew, far from the Way of Truth;
O the tales been told, o let my people go.
Though hid from pedant’s* eye, each one is foreknown;
Destined to live and die, then no more to roam.
Cut not short their destiny, they for life were meant to be
Tales to be told, o let my people go.
Small though their bodies are, each one has great worth.
With silent cries they cross the bar, denied their first birth.
Ushered into Holy Light, before the Father and the Christ,
There to tell the tale, yet no more to weep or wail,
Lest they weep o for thee, o let my people go.
It’s we who should weep and wail, we who must tell the tale,
Crimes yet undone should not prevail, this must be the goal.
Warn now, I warn you well, your soul may be bound for hell,
It’s murder and must be told, o let my people go.
*pedant: in this case, one who is unimaginative or who unduly emphasizes minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge

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Megan C

posted April 20, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Well, she was born with cerebral palsy. If that is not “borderline,” then what does it take to classify a baby as such? All the abortionists who would declair a cerebral palsy baby as “viable” speak up now. :::cricket:::

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posted September 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Uhhh…her cerebral palsy is due to the effects of the saline abortion procedure used on her.

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posted November 20, 2010 at 11:22 am

You’ve completely missed the point of the bill! You yourself admit that the doctor who committed this abortion would have a powerful incentive to declare the child unviable, despite the fact that it was viable. This law is intended to take the power of decision away from the doctor who will ALWAYS have an overwhelming reason do declare the child unviable. There will ALWAYS be a conflict of interest for the abortionist to complete the job that they were hired to do. Their reputation demands it. They cannot be trusted to make the ethical choice. To place the decision back in the abortionists hands is like allowing a child abuser to determine whether their discipline was abuse or merely punishment. They will decide what is in their best interest. This legislation takes the abortionist out of the equation and gives every child a fighting chance at life.

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cheap custom jerseys

posted May 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I like it very much, thank you

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posted March 26, 2012 at 9:41 am

Even if everything you say is true, the ad, I believe, with all my heart, would still be true. Obama loves abortion. And don’t say he thinks they are necessary. No. I know people who would prefer it didn’t happen, but thinks it’s necessary, those who think it’s not that that big a deal and those who would promote abortion at every chance. Obama? He is the abortion lover. And again, if everything you say is true, Gianna would still not have been born if Obama had his way.

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Your Name

posted April 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I think you’re missing the point, Steve. Obama doesn’t value life. Period. His post abortion support had nothing to do with viability. The point stands: she wouldn’t have been alive if he had his say.

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Allen Wiznitzer

posted April 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm

To me, the issue of abortion, and my thoughts and feelings about it, are both personal and a matter of my Christian faith.

I lost a younger brother to abortion, and, had I been conceived even ten years later, I would almost certainly been aborted.

I have a nephew who is now a 36 year old, married, father of three. He was born in 1975 with a birth weight of 2 lbs. 4 ounces. His mother was eclamptic, but was wanted by his parents and survived his early birth to grow to adulthood with no medical problems. At the time of his birth there were very few babies who survived at such a low weight. His birth weight and gestational age are now not considered dramatically early.

We Americans routinely kill babies his gestational age and birth weight. Our society has been doing so for the past 40 years.

We call abortion by that name because we lie to ourselves and each other to suppress the truth. The Bible explains that this is the result of people “who suppress the truth by their wickedness”. President Obama is such a person.

Abortion, whether to offer common humane care to babies born alive, a woman’s right to control her reproductive organs, these are not issues about which honest people can disagree. There actually are morally right and morally wrong positions.

I have no doubt that so-called liberal thinkers would find that assertion intolerant and closed minded. That is both ironic and tragically stupid.

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Rick Warren asked then Senator Obama when human life began, and Mr. Obama stated that question was way above his pay grade. That is a patently dishonest answer, and Rick Warren lacked the integrity to challenge that answer or even pursue truth with one follow up question.

Here is a simple question. If unborn babies are not human life, what are they? Are they flat screen televisions or little microwave ovens? Again, this is not an issue about which honest people can disagree.

If unborn babies are human life than they have an unalienable right to life that was given to them by their creator, not by their biological mother or father. A woman’s right to kill her baby to avoid up to 9 months of pregnancy does not superseded the right of her unborn child to live that life.

In the same section of Scripture I quoted above, God informs us of the consequences of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. …”their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools”…”Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”

This is a harsh truth, but it is, nevertheless, the truth, and because of this “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

I cannot understand motives of the author’s lack of integrity in both misstating the truth of then State Senator Obama’s position as regards the accuracy of this advertizement, nor his trivializing the wrongful deaths of over 50 million children at the hands of the government sanctioned abortion industry.

Since the children who have been killed through abortions were, in fact, human persons, we are well along an epoch of history which rivals all others in its cruel violence. Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

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