Gianna Jessen, (1977) is an American pro-life and disability rights activist. She is a survivor of a failed saline abortion attempt when her 17-year-old biological mother was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with her. Gianna was born 2½ pounds.
Jessen has cerebral palsy, which she traces directly to the lack of oxygen to her brain during the failed abortion. Despite spending the first years of her life mostly immobile, Jessen learned to walk with the help of her loving foster mother, who later became her adoptive grandmother and a very important influence in her life.
Jessen has since campaigned against abortion, saying “It’s more comfortable for people to think of abortion as a political decision, or a right. But I am not a right. I am a human being.”
Jessen travels the world telling the unusual story of her birth. Her circumstances and the evangelical Christian beliefs she accepted at an early age have made her a passionate anti-abortion advocate. She said, “It’s not easy. But I’ll tell you… I signed up for an extraordinary life. A lot of times we forget that so much wisdom can be gained through a struggle, not by eliminating them.”
Jessen says, “I always tell people, when I’m speaking to audiences. ‘Can you get up and walk from there to there without thinking about it?’ I wait for them to say yes,” she said. “When they do, I say, ‘Can you do me a favor? Can you stop complaining?’ Gianna celebrates life and despite her disabilities, she’s ran two marathons.
The New York Times noted, in writing about her life to the world, that Jessen and Becky Bell, a teenage girl who reportedly died as a result of an unsafe abortion in 1988, had become the symbols of America’s debate over abortion. The New York Times set them as “poster girls whose stories are being shrewdly marketed by their supporters to keep passions high.”
In September 2008, Jessen was sponsored by the Australian Christian Lobby, to lobby federal politicians on late term abortions. And in the same year, she appeared in a political advertisement during the 2008 US presidential campaign stating, “if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be here”, referring to Obama’s opposition to “born alive” legislation.
In September 2015, Jessen testified at a Congressional hearing investigating Planned Parenthood’s practices regarding fetal tissue donation, following the Planned Parenthood 2015 undercover videos controversy. During her testimony, Jessen said she would ask Planned Parenthood the following question: “If abortion is about women’s rights, then where were mine?
And in 2017, Gianna spoke at St. Cloud State University again advocating the rights of the unborn who have no voice of their own.
One of the most unusual things about her life is her forgiveness to her biological mom. At one meeting, a woman came up to her after her talk and said, “Hi, I’m your mother.” Jessen said, “I absolutely knew she wasn’t lying,” “I just said, I’m a Christian and I forgive you.”