The survivor of a failed abortion, Gianna Jessen manages to feel overwhelmingly loved in a world that has consistently shown her hatred
According to the World Health Organization, every year in the world there are an estimated 40 to 50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.
Gianna Jessen should have been among that statistic. Instead she stands in front of audiences worldwide, saying: "I've got a sign on my forehead that says 'You'd better be nice to me because my father runs the world'."
She explains her biological mother was seven-and-a-half months pregnant when she was advised by Planned Parenthood to have a saline abortion, where a solution is injected into the mother's womb for the baby to consume so it will be burned from the inside and be delivered, dead, within 24 hours.
"To everyone's great shock and surprise," Gianna smiles, "I didn't arrive dead, but alive, on April 6th 1977 in a Los Angeles county abortion clinic.
"I should be blind, I should be burned; I should be dead. And yet I'm not."
With the man responsible for her abortion absent and unable to carry the procedure through, Gianna was transferred to a hospital – a complete anomaly since the practice at the time and up until the 2002 Born Alive Infants Protection Act in the US was to end the life of an abortion survivor by strangulation, suffocation, leaving the baby to die, or throwing the baby away.
After that, she was placed in an emergency foster care home where she says they "didn't like me very much, which is crazy because why wouldn't you love me from the very start?" she says, inciting laughs from her audience.
At 17 months old she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, caused directly by the lack of oxygen to her brain while she was fighting to survive.
"If abortion is merely about women's rights," she challenges, "then what were mine?
"There was not a radical feminist standing up and yelling about how my rights were being violated that day. In fact, my life was being snuffed out in the name of women's rights."
In school she was bullied, and remembers crying at the taunts of other children. When she was 16, a stranger came up to her and told her children with disabilities were a burden on society.
She says, "I have been hated since conception. By so many."
So what gave her the strength, at 16, to look at that stranger who had just called her a burden, and smile, knowing she was wrong? What gives her the confidence today to stand in front of audiences and say, "I didn't survive so I could make everyone comfortable. I survived so I could shake things up a bit. And I have a great time doing it."
"I have been hated by so many," she explains, "And I have been loved by so many more, but most of all by God. I'm His girl. You don't mess with God's girl.
"How on earth can I go about limping through this world and not give my whole heart and mind and soul and strength to the Christ who gave me life?
"I am weaker than most of you, but what a small price to pay to be able to blaze through the world as I do and offer hope.
"God has a way of making the most miserable thing beautiful."
Gianna met her biological mother. A lady came to see her at an event she was speaking at and walked up to her after it was over, introducing herself as her mother. Gianna says she has forgiven her. "I don't belong to you," she recalls telling the woman in her head that day. "I belong to God. I'm a princess."
It is that title that gives Gianna her feistiness, her confidence, her rock-solid strength in the face of so much hatred and adversity. She knows she is precious because she is the daughter of the creator of the world, and He loves her more than words can ever describe, more than she can ever begin to imagine.
"Don't you realize that you can't make your own heart beat?" she questions her audience, questions those who might think they have authority over certain others' lives.
"Don't you realize that all the power you think you possess you really possess none of it – it is the mercy of God that sustains you even when you hate Him?
"I stand in front of you today with a very minor limp, no walker and no leg braces," Gianna says. She has proved doctors wrong systematically throughout her life, from the time she was able to raise her head as an infant to the time she ran a marathon in 2004.
"I fall gracefully sometimes and very ungracefully other times. But I consider it all for the glory of God.
"I'm hoping to be hated by the time that I die so I can feel God about me and understand what it was like to be hated. Not that I look forward to being hated – but I know I am already hated because through my story I declare life."
And she has a great time doing it.•