Hero for Life event draws 500

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Gianna Jessen, center, an abortion survivor who lives with cerebral palsy as a result, stands with the support of Brad Finstad, left, and Glen Lewerenz, right, to address the crowd at the sold-out event at the Hero for Life Banquet Tuesday night at the New Ulm Event Center.

NEW ULM — Almost 500 people attended a sold-out Hero for Life Banquet this year to listen to an abortion survivor share her love for Jesus Christ.

Before Gianna Jessen came on stage, however, First Choice Pregnancy — which raises money through the banquet — recognized this year’s Hero for Life, Scott Osborne.

“His commitment to the sanctity of life is undeniable,” Director Darcy Lund said. “He is a hard-working, behind-the-scenes type of guy who does what needs to be done without seeking recognition, but tonight we want to recognize him because without his commitment to find out what needed to be done and whom to ask, without his willingness to step out of his comfort zone and ask numerous individuals and businesses to donate labor and supplies, without his drive to see a project through to completion, without his digging holes, hauling dirt, tearing down walls and doing so much more — including fielding a multitude of maintenance questions from the director — the renovations on the center would have never been completed as quickly as they were.”

Osborne proved Lund true by quickly getting up on stage, accepting his award and just as quickly sitting back down.

After Lund spoke and another family shared their experience with the pregnancy service, Jessen stood behind the lectern with the aid of two men.

Jessen has cerebral palsy as the result of an attempted abortion she survived. Cerebral palsy is a muscle-tone disorder that occurs when an immature or developing brain sustains damage, often before birth.

In Jessen’s case she has difficulty with balance which makes walking and standing independently difficult.

Even then she refused to sit. Having men support her, Jessen said, was an example of the argument which underpinned much of her speech: that men should be free to be men and protect women, and women should be free to be feminine and vulnerable.

“I like to show that it is a beautiful thing for a woman to be vulnerable, that it is in fact her nature, and that men are actually needed, and they ought to be treated with honor, just as they ought to treat us with honor and respect,” Jessen said.

Jessen shared her story, which began early in the morning on April 6, 1977, or rather about 18 hours before.

Her mother, who was a teenager at the time, had gone in for a late-term, saline solution abortion in which saline is injected into the womb and “burns the baby inside and out,” Jessen said.

“I was born at six in the morning which was perfect timing,” Jessen said. “You know why? Because the abortionist wasn’t at work yet. Had he been there he would have ended my life with strangulation, suffocation or leaving me to die. I should be blind and burned and dead and yet I lived by the power of Jesus Christ.”

The nurse on hand called an ambulance when they discovered Jessen was alive, saving her life. After the hospital Jessen was fostered out.

She spent her first few months in foster care. At 17-months-old Jessen was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Eventually she was adopted by the daughter of her foster mom, Jessen said.

She spent most of her life overcoming the challenges of doing what able-bodied people take for granted.

“I had to learn how to walk twice,” Jessen said. “Once at 3 and a half and once after spinal surgery at 10. That is kind of a big deal. I ran two marathons by running on my toes for seven and eight hours, because I am awesome.”

After Jessen began her speaking engagements she came face-to-face with the one woman she did not want to face, her biological mother.

Jessen’s foster mother had taken word to her biological mother that Jessen did not want to meet her. She wanted to move on, but still forgave her.

Then, while sitting on a plane Jessen said she heard God’s voice asking her what she would do if her mother showed up at an event.

Looking back Jessen said God was preparing her without telling her what would come next, because her mother did show up.

After her biological mother revealed her identity, Jessen simply told her she was a Christian and forgave her.

Her mother would not let it sit at that. She began arguing with Jessen and insulting her, Jessen said. Meanwhile Jessen continued to simply repeat the same phrase, until she was sick of the argument.

“I looked at her and I said, ‘Ma’am, I am a Christian and I forgive you, but I will no longer allow you to speak to me in this manner,’ and I got up and I left,” Jessen said.

Thinking of others was another big message of Jessen’s. She was critical of people, specifically millennials, who could not grow up and think of anyone more than themselves.

She made the point with her own life, that she has hit 40 and still has not had a child.

“I would give anything for the child that you have, but I love Jesus more than my own life,” Jessen said. “The only way we transform the nation, ladies and gentlemen, is if we can love others more than our own selves.”

She also added that anybody in the crowd who felt miserable in their life should turn to Jesus Christ.

“If there is anyone walking an unusual road, I just want to say, keep going,” Jessen said. “Put one foot in front of the other and dare to just shine, dare to be different.”

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.


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