The issue of how abortion survivors should be treated under the law has been hotly debated over the past few months. But just how many children survive abortions in the United States? We don’t know, because only a small number of states report the data.
The data, reported by Fox News, shows that at least 40 people were born alive after botched abortions across three states since 2016. Minnesota reported 11 since 2016. Arizona reported 10 such cases in 2017, and Florida reported 19 the same year.
Other states, the report notes, have laws that require reporting information on children born after failed abortion attempts, but those have either not seen any cases or have simply not started putting the data together.
This data offers only a small portion of the whole picture, however, because state-level abortion information like this is only reported on a voluntary basis. And many states with lax abortion laws don’t report their abortion information. The CDC pointed this problem out in a 2018 abortion report: “Because the collection and reporting of abortion data are not federally mandated, many reporting areas have developed their own data collection forms, and therefore do not collect or provide all the information or level of detail included in this report.”
“Imagine if all that we knew about bank safety came from the financial industry’s own press releases or if we relied on a restaurant owner’s assertion about what could be found in a private inspection of the kitchen,” wrote Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins about abortion reporting last year. Hawkins went on to call for the passage of “a National Abortion Reporting law.”
Earlier this year, Reps. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., and Gary Palmer, R-Ala., introduced a bill to “mandate accurate reporting of abortion data to the CDC and ensure that states are given technical assistance to help with data collection.”
The issue of abortion survivors became a large part of the abortion discussion earlier this year after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, said that, under a proposed state-level abortion bill “the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
After Northam’s comments, the Senate voted on a bill that would have required that doctors provide medical care to the survivors of botched abortions; it failed when 44 Democrats voted against it. House Republicans have tried 80 separate times to bring the bill to the floor in the lower chamber and even filed a discharge petition on the matter, but Democratic leaders still refuse to allow a vote on the measure.
While many abortion survivors don’t live to maturity, some have gone on to lead fulfilling lives. For example, Melissa Ohden — who survived a saline abortion — has written a book about her experiences. Josiah Presley also went on to become an advocate for the unborn, as has Claire Culwell.
Nik Hoot lost parts of his arms and legs to a failed abortion, but went on to wrestle in high school and is now a middle school wrestling coach.
“I knew that I was supposed to be an aborted baby and it failed,” Hoot once said. “It makes me angry because I would never want for that to happen to any kid. Anybody can become anything, and getting rid of a kid like that isn’t right to me.”