Failed Abortions: The People Who Survive

Shenan J. Boquet
written by William Lawyer
April 30, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Human Life International

It is easy to forget that every abortion is happening to a unique person. With tens of millions of abortions occurring every year, the deaths become a mere statistic. We never know the people who are lost, and to many of us, they are just numbers on a sheet.

Sometimes, however, someone comes along who has been through abortion and can reminds us what abortion really is. These people can represent to us the lives being ended by abortion because their lives were nearly taken by abortion as well. Even more, as we shall see, these survivors remind us of the dangers that abortion poses not only to the unborn, but to born children as well.



1. The Oldenburg Baby

On July 6th, 1997, a baby at the Staedtische Frauenklinik hospital in Oldenburg, Germany, was aborted in the twenty-fifth week of pregnancy.

The abortion failed.

The infant, Tim, would soon come to be known as the Oldenburg Baby by the rest of the world. Though he survived the abortion and was born breathing and moving, medical personnel believed that he would die anyway. Denying him medical assistance, they wrapped him in a towel and left him alone for nine hours without any other care or treatment.

When medical personnel returned to collect the corpse, however, the child had not died. Though Tim's body temperature had dropped massively, he was still living and breathing. Taking pity on him, one of the nurses cared for the infant until doctors finally provided him with medical attention.

Tim was soon placed up for adoption and found home with Bernhard and Simone Guido. The couple had been expecting to adopt a healthy baby girl but had fallen in love with Tim the moment they laid eyes on him. The family would care for Tim for the rest of his life.

Because of the abortion and the neglect he was subjected to, Tim had numerous disabilities that challenged him as he grew up. In addition to his Down syndrome, he suffered severe damage to his eyes, brain, and lungs. In the first years of his life, Tim had to undergo numerous operations and extensive therapy to help him overcome the hurdles he faced. With his strong love for animals, Tim developed the fine motor and speech skills he needed through dolphin therapy. Tim would later attend the Paul Moor School in Quakenbrueck, where he was described as a confident, lovable, and happy person.

Tim's story is hardly the only one of its kind. Countless abortion survivors have emerged over the years around the world to tell their stories. Many are survivors of not only the first attempt to end their life but of subsequent neglect. Most are plagued by complications from the abortion for the rest of their lives.

2. Gianna Jessen

Another abortion survival case is that of Gianna Jessen , a victim of a saline abortion at seven months gestation. The abortion left Jessen with severe injuries and permanent physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy, due to a lack of oxygen during the abortion. She was never supposed to be able to walk or even to lift her head. Many even doubted that she would live.

Like Tim, however, Jessen defied the odds. After four surgeries and physical therapy, Jessen was able to overcome many of the effects of the abortion. Today she can walk without assistance, and she has taken an active role as a pro-life advocate. Jessen has testified in Congress on numerous occasion and regularly gives speeches promoting laws to protect abortion survivors. In addition to leading efforts to protect survivors, she has given witness in cases where abortionists have been caught outright killing infants after birth.

3. Sarah Brown

Not all children are able to overcome the complications from their abortions, however. Even with proper care, many die. Sarah Brown is one such case.

At 36 weeks, nearly full-term, Sarah was injected with potassium chloride meant to stop her heart. The injection, however, punctured Sarah's head instead of her heart. The poison entered her brain and left her with visible scars and chemical burns at the base of her skull and above her eyebrow.

The poison severely damaged the left portion of Sarah's brain instead of killing her. Upon her delivery, the staff at the hospital sent the mother home, set Sarah aside, and waited for her to die.

Though Sarah was neglected for hours following the attempt on her life, with no care, nourishment, or assistance, she continued to live. As in Tim's case, a nurse at the hospital took pity on her and called a pro-life attorney to help. The attorney would place Sarah with Bill and Mary Kay, who had been hoping to adopt a special-needs child.

The injection severely damaged the left portion of Sarah's brain, leaving her blind and unable to walk. Sarah progressed normally for a while, even beginning to speak, but her health continued to worsen. In the year following her birth, Sarah suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered.

Among her other injuries, Sarah's airway was severely damaged by the poison used in the abortion attempt. For this reason, Sarah had to be hooked up to a machine that monitored her breathing at night to ensure her safety. She quickly found a way to take advantage of her situation to communicate: "She learned that if she held her breath the monitor would go off," her adoptive mother recounted once. "We would jump out of bed and she would be grinning at us. That was how she got attention."

Sarah passed away at the age of five due to her medical complications. Her life spurred her family to take up pro-life activism, forming groups to help pregnant women and children in need.

Despite how efficient abortions have become, there are still a great number of survivors . Many go on to live productive lives, such as Melissa Ohden, Josiah Presley, Nik Hoot, and others. For every one who survives , however, a great many more die due to the trauma of the abortion and subsequent neglect.

The Problem of Infanticide

Stories like these are shocking, even when they have a happy ending. It is unpleasant to imagine any child surviving abortion and then being left to die. This reality, however, is sadly not uncommon. In the United States, it is likely that between a few hundred and well over a thousand children survive abortions every year. Hundreds of more deaths have been recorded in other countries. Though the total number of abortion survivors is difficult to calculate, even just the number of known abortion survivors is staggering.

Worse, these children are commonly neglected after birth. In some countries , the outright killing of the infant after birth is accepted, even recommended as a matter of practice to prevent suffering. Rarely, if ever, are they given care. Their survival is seen as an unfortunate medical failure, a problem that is best dealt with by ignoring it.

Indeed, in a review of eighty-three born-alive abortion survivor cases in the United States, not one report indicated that medical attention was given to any of them. Instead, most reports state outright that no measures were taken to preserve the life of the infant. While these children are sometimes given some comfort care to make their deaths more pleasant, even that level of compassion is often denied.

Legal Protections for Abortion Survivors

Some states require certain measures to preserve the lives of abortion survivors. But these laws are rarely, if ever, enforced and frequently ignored. Likewise, politicians often discount stories and reports on abortion survivors, claiming that laws to protect these survivors are unneeded or rooted in some assault on women's rights.

Currently, no federal law prohibits this neglect of abortion survivors or provides protections for them. Often abortion advocates disagree, claiming that the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act is sufficient. The law, however, does not actually provide any protections; it simply declares that terms like "human being" apply to every infant born alive. And regardless of the efficacy of the law, the continuing mistreatment of abortion survivors demonstrates that more needs to be done.

Time and again, pro-life advocates and politicians have put forward laws aimed to protect abortion survivors in the United States. The laws proposed would usually require that survivors receive a proper level of care; others would allow for the criminal prosecution of those who directly kill a born-alive abortion survivor. Time and again, however, these bills have been shut down by near-unanimous opposition from Democrat politicians and pro-abortion advocates.

Most recently, a law known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act was once again shut down by Senate Democrats for the third year in a row. Primarily, the bill would have amended the federal criminal code to require that a survivor receive care appropriate to his or her gestational age. In addition, the law would have required that survivors be admitted to hospitals instead of remaining in the care of the abortionist. The bill was widely opposed by pro-abortion senators, who claimed that it was unnecessary and constituted a harmful restriction on abortion. Each time this law has been proposed, only a handful of Democrats have crossed party lines to support it. Because of the widespread opposition among Democrats, the bill has yet to obtain enough support to reach a filibuster-proof majority.

It may seem odd that such laws would meet such opposition. Protecting abortion survivors after birth, however, can be difficult to rationalize given the legality of abortion. If it is wrong to kill or abandon a child after a failed abortion, why is the procedure meant to kill the child in the first place legal?

Final Thoughts

There is a lesson to be taken from the stories of abortion survivors: the abuse of one group of humans inevitably leads to the abuse of others. It is difficult to justify the death of the unborn if we must care for survivors mere moments after failed attempts on their lives. Rather than this problem leading us to reexamine the ethics of abortion, however, it instead leads us to defend infanticide. To preserve abortion, survivors are neglected, abandoned, and killed, and we ignore it to avoid challenging abortion.

In the long run, these inconsistencies will need to be corrected and resolved. In the short run, however, this problem has to be addressed first: regardless of how they were born, or what implications their lives may have on other hot-button topics, these children should receive care.

Abortion has become a battleground over not only the lives of the unborn, but the lives of already born children as well. We cannot simply abandon abortion survivors and avoid dealing with the reality of failed abortions simply for political convenience.