Born-Alive Abortion Survivors

What happens when abortion fails?

While most abortions take place early in gestation, more than 50,000 abortions are committed annually AFTER 15 weeks of pregnancy (around three and a half months).1 At this stage, abortionists take the lives of preborn children through gruesome dismemberment and poisoning - despite science conjecturing that babies in the womb can feel pain as early as 12 weeks. In some cases, preborn babies can be born alive during these tragic attempts to take their lives.

The Abortion Survivors Network estimates that 85,817 babies have survived failed abortions.

How Do Late-Term Abortions Fail?

A day or two before a late-term abortion, a mother will have an appointment at the abortion facility to both "prepare her body" for the traumatic abortion and to kill the baby. During this visit, the abortionist will dilate her cervix (usually with laminaria, which are seaweed sticks that expand when exposed to moisture) and typically administer a fatal injection of Digoxin into the heart of the baby. Sometimes, the baby’s umbilical cord is instead severed so that he or she will bleed to death. The abortionist then expects that the baby will be born deadHowever, nearly 70% of late-term abortionists report that they do not ensure “fetal demise” before taking action to remove the child.2 

On the second day, the mother will continue to be artificially dilated while carrying her child, who is presumed dead. She will be given the drug Misoprostol to artificially stimulate uterine contractions to expel the preborn baby. There may also be a second injection of Digoxin. On the third or fourth day, the mother will deliver her dead child.3

Fortunately, for some of these children, abortionists’ attempts at killing them fail. When this incredible survival occurs, however, abortionists can complete the intended end of abortion - the death of a preborn child - by other heinous means. This shows just how horrific abortion really is: a successful abortion is one in which a baby dies, and a failure is where life succeeds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 143 babies were left alone to die between 2003 and 2014 after surviving abortion.4 These children—who resiliently overcame the attempt on their life—are almost always suffocated, strangled, or abandoned in order for abortionists to cover up their mistakes.

Dr. Willard Cates, former director of abortion surveillance at the CDC, notoriously pointed out in a prominent Philadelphia Inquirer article that babies born alive after abortion attempts are “the dreaded complication.”5  In this article, Dr. Cates mentions that estimates of born-alive abortion numbers are difficult to verify because failed abortions are typically hush-hush due to potential legal ramifications. It’s like turning yourself in to the IRS for an audit,” Cates says. “What is there to gain? The tendency is not to report because there are only negative incentives.”6

It's important to recognize the significant impact of those who have survived failed abortions. Despite the abortion industry’s desire to silence survivors, many bravely use their testimonies to speak up for the protection of the prebornHere are a few:

  • Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, survived a saline abortion attempt in 1977. She uses the story of her survival and how it has motivated her to create a loving space for other abortion survivors to come together and find healing and peace.7 
  • Gianna Jessen is also a survivor of a saline abortion attempt and has continuously used her survival perspective to testify in various public forums.8 While testifying against Planned Parenthood in a congressional hearing, she pointed out, “The only reason I am alive is the fact that the abortionist had not yet arrived at work.9 10 If the abortionist had shown up that day, “he would have ended [her] life with strangulation, suffocation or leaving [her] to die.11 
  • Jennifer Milbourn survived a vacuum (suction) aspiration abortion. She travels the United States sharing her survival story and shutting down the abortion industry’s narrative that the preborn are a nuisance: “I am not a disease that needs to be taken care of.”12

Hear from Melissa Ohden on the importance of protecting born-alive abortion survivors in law:

No human deserves to be suffocated, strangled, or abandoned—especially defenseless babies. All babies born alive after failed abortions deserve to be treated as patients and should receive any medical treatment needed to survive. Only 18 states have legal protections in place for babies who survive abortion.13 The U.S. must enact robust federal law to ensure the safety of all abortion survivorsnot just those born in specific states. Location (whether in or out the womb or in a state with pro-life laws or not) shouldn’t merit discrimination.

[1] https://lozierinstitute.org/questions-and-answers-on-late-term-abortion/
[2] https://www.contraceptionjournal.org/article/S0010-7824(18)30140-9/abstract
[3] https://studentsforlife.org/learn/abortion-procedures/
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/mortality-records-mentioning-termination-of-pregnancy.htm
[5] https://web.archive.org/web/20210712064915/https:/digitalcollections.library.cmu.edu/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=693589
[6] Ibid.
[7] https://abortionsurvivors.org/melissas-story/
[8] https://giannajessen.com/
[9] https://docs.house.gov/meetings/JU/JU00/20150909/103920/HHRG-114-JU00-Wstate-JessenG-20150909.pdf
[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/09/27/the-only-reason-i-am-alive-is-the-fact-that-the-abortionist-had-not-yet-arrived-at-work/
[11] https://www.archindy.org/criterion/local/2021/10-08/righttolife.html
[12] https://jennifermilbourn.com/
[13] https://www.frc.org/prolifemaps