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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Story Behind DeSantis’s Anecdote About an ‘Abortion Survivor’


Ron DeSantis needed to dodge a debate query a couple of six-week federal abortion ban. So the Florida governor pulled out a private story, one which had just lately turn out to be a part of his pitch to voters on the necessity for larger regulation of abortion rights.

“I do know a girl in Florida named Penny,” he mentioned. “She survived a number of abortion makes an attempt. She was left discarded in a pan. Luckily, her grandmother saved her and introduced her to a unique hospital.” He then pivoted to assault Democrats for his or her abortion “extremism.”

The jarring anecdote caught the eye of viewers on social media, who speculated that Mr. DeSantis was fabricating the story.

However Penny does exist. Mr. DeSantis’s marketing campaign says the governor has met her. She is Miriam Hopper, who goes by Penny and is an anti-abortion activist who lives in Florida and calls herself an “abortion survivor.”

The main points of Ms. Hopper’s delivery in 1955 are not possible to confirm. However no less than one distinguished obstetrician famous that medical advances and practices had modified so dramatically within the practically seven a long time since then that her story had little relevance for the present debate about abortion rights and coverage. On the time of her delivery, abortion was unlawful. Even an tried abortion might have resulted in fines and imprisonment for a supplier.

Ms. Hopper didn’t return a name for remark this week. However she instructed her story in an on-line video posted by Shield Life Michigan, an anti-abortion advocacy group. The video, a part of a broader marketing campaign, was posted in September 2022 amid a marketing campaign towards a poll initiative that will enshrine abortion rights in Michigan’s Structure. So-called abortion survivors have been a staple of the anti-abortion motion for years, steadily showing in marketing campaign adverts and testifying on Capitol Hill in favor of federal abortion bans.

In response to Ms. Hopper, her mom sought medical care at a clinic in central Florida in 1955 due to bleeding and different problems. She was 23 weeks pregnant, proper on the outer fringe of when a fetus is taken into account capable of survive exterior the womb. The physician who examined Ms. Hopper’s mom mentioned he couldn’t hear a heartbeat. He induced labor, she mentioned.

“You don’t want this child to stay — if it lives, it will likely be a burden on you your whole life,” Ms. Hopper says the physician instructed her dad and mom earlier than instructing a nurse to discard the infant — “lifeless or alive.”

Ms. Hopper mentioned she had weighed one pound 11 ounces at her delivery. The nurse “positioned me in a bedpan on the again porch of the clinic,” she mentioned. When her grandmother and aunt arrived, they discovered Ms. Hopper. Her grandmother referred to as the police. A nurse helped take Ms. Hopper to a hospital in Lakeland, Fla., the place she survived a number of bouts of pneumonia.

Ms. Hopper’s mom, aunt, father and grandmother have died. It doesn’t seem that the incident was lined in information reviews.

After an prolonged keep, Ms. Hopper went residence and had a “nice life.” She married her highschool sweetheart, had two kids of her personal and has seven grandchildren. “Life has worth, and all lives matter,” she mentioned, on the finish of the video.

In a 2013 interview with the Florida radio station WFSU, carried out in the midst of a statehouse debate over new abortion restrictions, Ms. Hopper mentioned that her story was based mostly on what she had been instructed by her household. She mentioned that her father, raised in the course of the Nice Melancholy, didn’t need one other baby and that she suspected a botched abortion had despatched her mom to the hospital with the problems.

Diane Horvath, an obstetrician and gynecologist who performs abortions till 34 weeks at a clinic in Maryland, mentioned it was troublesome to parse Ms. Hopper’s account.

“There’s a variety of components of this story that don’t make sense to me,” she mentioned, noting that 68 years in the past, physicians had lacked the current-day applied sciences to maintain very untimely infants alive.

Within the Nineteen Fifties, loss of life was “nearly ensured” when an toddler was delivered at or earlier than 24 weeks of gestation, in response to a report printed in 2017 by the American School of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Drugs.

In contrast, a research carried out final 12 months by a staff of neonatologists discovered that practically 56 p.c of infants who’re born at 23 weeks survive — in the event that they obtain aggressive remedy in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Even when Ms. Hopper’s story is correct, it’s not significantly germane to a dialogue of present abortion practices or rules, Dr. Horvath mentioned.

“It doesn’t symbolize the truth of medical observe at this second,” she mentioned. “It’s not likely related to what we ought to be speaking about once we speak about entry to abortion.”

Fewer than 1 p.c of abortions happen after 21 weeks’ gestation, in response to the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Such procedures are usually troublesome to obtain, with solely a restricted variety of services providing them.

The Republican presidential major debate wasn’t the primary time Mr. DeSantis had instructed a model of this story. He debuted the narrative final weekend at a city corridor in Nashua, N.H., amid a shift in his messaging that was meant to evoke a extra private contact.

The second got here in response to a query from a voter who described himself as a “conventional Catholic” and requested Mr. DeSantis, who has signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida and has tried to dodge questions on whether or not he helps an identical ban nationwide, how he would “defend the lifetime of the unborn.”

Mr. DeSantis mentioned he had met “Penny” in individual in central Florida, after which launching into an identical model of the story he instructed on Wednesday evening, together with the small print about Ms. Hopper’s grandmother and the pan, and making an attempt to color Democrats because the extremists on abortion.

“You understand, that’s a really callous factor to occur,” Mr. DeSantis mentioned. Most Democratic officeholders say the federal government shouldn’t legislate such selections and will go away them to a lady and her physician.

Ryan Tyson, a prime DeSantis marketing campaign adviser, mentioned the governor was making an effort to speak extra concerning the individuals he had encountered on the path. His marketing campaign didn’t present particulars concerning the circumstances of his assembly with Ms. Hopper.

“He’s on the market — he’s assembly individuals,” Mr. Tyson mentioned in an interview after the controversy. “He’s listening to their tales as he will get throughout the nation. And I believe that’s why you noticed he had a second there, as a result of it does take a toll on you.”


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