Abortion survivors testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday against continuing federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S. One of the witnesses, Melissa Ohden, said in her written Aug. 9 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that while some of them had survived abortion attempts at clinics not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, “the expectation for our lives to be ended by abortion are the very same as those who do lose their lives there.” The hearing was called to examine the “horrific abortion practices” at Planned Parenthood clinics amid debate over whether the organization’s affiliates should still receive federal funding. “I have long believed that if my birthmother’s abortion would have taken place at a Planned Parenthood, I would not be here today. Completing over 300,000 abortions a year provides them with the experience to make sure that ‘failures’ like me don’t happen,” Ohden continued. “We are your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor, and you would likely never guess just by looking at us that we survived what we did,” she added. Planned Parenthood’s health centers provide a number of services including physical exams and preventative screenings, but it is also the nation’s largest abortion provider, at almost 330,000 abortions annually. Its affiliates receive federal funds mostly from Medicaid payments and Title X grants. Two House committees — the Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee — have launched investigations into the organization. At issue are allegations that its clinics sold fetal tissue from aborted babies for more than the reasonable compensation allowed by federal law. Two of the witnesses at the hearing — Ohden and Gianna Jessen — survived painful saline abortion procedures in 1977. The saline abortion — or “instillation abortion” — procedure involves the withdrawing of amniotic fluid from a mother’s womb and replacing it with a concentrated salt solution which the baby absorbs. The solution burns and corrodes the baby’s skin and causes death within an hour. Although neither suffered a botched abortion attempt at a Planned Parenthood clinic, they maintain that their fate would have been the same, or worse, at a clinic run by the organization. Jessen’s mother, then over seven months pregnant, was advised by a Planned Parenthood clinic to have a saline abortion. Jessen survived for 18 hours, however, and was delivered. She suffered cerebral palsy as a result of the failed abortion. “I forgive my biological mother,” she said in her written testimony. Ohden survived for days after the saline abortion before her mother was induced and delivered her. She weighed just under three pounds at delivery. “By the grace of God, I am more than a statistic,” she said. Her maternal grandmother, the nurse who delivered her, actually wanted to leave her to die, but two nurses intervened and had medical care provided for her. Ohden said she suffered from jaundice, seizures, and respiratory problems as a result of the botched abortion. Planned Parenthood is part of this abortion culture, Ohden and Jessen maintained. “Planned Parenthood is not ashamed of what they have done or continue to do,” Jessen said, quoting the organization’s founder Margaret Sanger, who wrote that “the most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” However, by allowing for legal abortion Americans are missing a crucial point that “it is often from the weakest among us that we learn wisdom,” Jessen added. The organization is at the center of controversy after a series of videos were released beginning mid-July showing top doctors at the organization and its affiliates discussing the transfer of body parts of aborted babies to harvesters for money. The citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress produced the undercover conversations as part of its series “Human Capital.” Planned Parenthood doctors were seen discussing financial compensation for fetal tissue from aborted babies, suggesting that the abortion procedure could be altered to obtain more “intact” body parts, and even poking at an aborted baby in a petri dish at the clinic. Many pro-life advocates have said that the organization and its affiliates broke the law by selling the fetal tissue for “valuable consideration.” Federal law does allow for reasonable compensation for fetal tissue that is donated for research purposes, to cover operational costs such as preservation and transport of the tissue. The allegations posed by the videos led the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the House Judiciary Committee, to launch investigations into the organization and its practices. Regardless of the legality of Planned Parenthood’s actions, the whole matter should awaken the conscience of the nation, argued Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) at the hearing. “It was immoral, what I was seeing on that video,” he said of one of the Center for Medical Progress videos. Labrador admitted he could stomach watching only two of the ten videos released. The real tragedy is that persons were “reduced to mere commodities” in the fetal body parts trade, Labrador insisted.
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