Thirty-one years ago, a 17-year-old woman went to have an abortion at a Los Angeles County abortion clinic after around seven-and-a-half months of carrying the baby. 

For 18 hours, the baby was burned in the womb by a saline solution but despite the saline treatment, survived and at around 6am on on 6th April, 1977, was delivered alive, weighing less than a kilogram. 

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"It’s an honor to have the opportunity to bring humanity back into this...The issue is very often debated without the humanity acknowledged and it’s amazing to be able to bring that to the forefront. And to look at them and say ‘If abortion is merely about women’s rights, then what were mine?’.”

- Gianna Jessen

The abortionist was not yet on duty given the early hour (if they had been, it was then common practice to strangle or suffocate the baby), so an ambulance was called and the baby was transferred to a hospital and placed in an incubator.

“They cared for me but they kept thinking that I would die,” the now 31-year-old Gianna Jessen recalls. “But to everyone’s great shock I kept living.”

Given her remarkable story, it's not surprising that Ms Jessen, who now has mild cerebral palsy as a result of the abortion, calls herself the “human face” of the abortion debate.

It’s with that in mind that the Australian Christian Lobby and other pro-life groups have brought Ms Jessen out to Australia this week so she can talk to politicians about her experience and the issue of abortion ahead of a Federal Parliamentary vote later this month on whether Medicare funding should be banned on second trimester and late term abortions, those which take place between 14 and 26 weeks.

Both major parties have said they will allow a conscience vote on the disallowance motion which will be introduced by Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett. The vote, which set to take place on September 17, comes as Victoria also debates moves to decriminalise abortions.

The ACL’s managing director, Jim Wallace, says that in Australia today some babies are being aborted using Medicare funding who are old enough to survive outside the womb.

He says figures from Victoria show that in 2005, 47 of the 309 post-20 week abortions resulted in the birth of a live child who was then left to die.

Mr Wallace says that while many people mistakenly believe most late-term abortions are carried out ion public hospital’s because the mother’s life is at risk or because the baby has severe abnormalities, figures from Victoria suggest the majority of late-term abortions are carried out by private operators for “psycho-social reasons”.

Ms Jessen, who was brought up in a foster family and legally adopted at the age of four by her foster mother’s daughter, these days lives in Tennessee but has travelled the world speaking about the abortion and related issues and has addressed US Congress several times. She says has come to Australia to tell of her experience in the hope of convincing senators to push ahead with the ban.

“I’m here to really tell the people of Australia what I have lived through...” she says. “I’m here to really support Senator Barnett’s motion to stop tax payer funding of second trimester abortion, primarily...”

“The reception has been wonderful because I’m very hard to ignore and deny. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to bring humanity back into this...The issue is very often debated without the humanity acknowledged and it’s amazing to be able to bring that to the forefront. And to look at them and say ‘If abortion is merely about women’s rights, then what were mine?’.”

Ms Jessen describes the damage abortion does to society as enormous and adds that she doesn’t believe there are any circumstances in which abortion is justified, noting that only one per cent of all abortions in the US are performed are as a result of rape or incest.

While even in such cases Ms Jessen still believes “God is able to take a terrible situation and make something beautiful out of the life that comes out of something tragic”, she says that the conversation about abortion should first address the 99 per cent of abortions which don’t occur as a result of such circumstances.

“Basically abortion is performed generally for one reason and it is convenience,” she says. “’This child is inconvenient for me for whatever reason’.”

"It takes two people to create a life and it’s irritating to me that men are...dismissed when it comes to their own children...”

- Gianna Jessen

Ms Jessen has never been told why her mother tried to abort her - she says it wasn’t because of the cerebral palsy which happened as a result of the abortion.

“All I can surmise is that it was due to convenience,” she says.

She met her biological mother two years ago and described her as a “very broken woman”.

“But I did offer my forgiveness to her which I think is the most important thing of all.”

Ms Jessen says she is irritated by a viewpoint which says males don’t have a place in commenting on abortion.

“It takes two people to create a life and it’s irritating to me that men are...dismissed when it comes to their own children...” she says. “I believe that each person should have a say in this equation - the child, the mother and the father. And I believe that men should have the opportunity to both defend their women and their children.”

Ms Jessen describes it as a “great honor” to be able to travel around the world and defend children but says it was never planned.

“It’s just something that sort of happened. I began speaking at 14 which is unconventional in and of itself and I spoke to a small group of people - I think it was 10 in fact - at a little restaurant and there was a reporter there and the reporter put the story in the paper. And the rest is history.”

She adds that her Christian faith has opened doors to her that would normally be closed and adds that she is “totally motivated” to what she does by Jesus Christ.

“I’m God’s girl and He looks after me and opens up doors that I could never open. Especially, in the abortion issue, where you’re dealing with women all of the time that are still broken over the abortions that they’ve had or men who didn’t know about the abortion and only found out later. You’re just dealing with broken humanity.”