Jon Sanders

England is abuzz about "The Boy Who Lived," and no, his name isn't Harry Potter, but he did survive a deliberate attempt on his life. Two, in fact, while still in his mother's womb.

The boy, Gabriel Jones, was the weaker twin and had an enlarged heart. Doctors told his mother that they believed he would die in the womb, and if he did, they said, that would cause his brother to die, too.

The despondent mother, Rebecca Jones, agreed to terminate Gabriel to save his twin brother, Ieuan. First doctors attempted to sever his umbilical cord, but according to published reports, the cord proved too strong. So they halved Jones' placenta to allow Gabriel to die without harm to Ieuan.

Instead, the tiny boy thrived, and both children were born by caesarian section five weeks later. They are happy, healthy children, with the bright eyes, gummy smiles and wispy hair of adorable infants.

Gabriel and his family are thrice blessed. Many children who survive "failed abortions" face lifelong health problems or disabilities. And unlike Gabriel, they are born to mothers who didn't want the child to see the light of day. Likely unaware that failed abortion was a risk, they live with a potent brew of mixed emotions, including anger at the doctors, anger at themselves, maternal love and obligation to the children, and guilt and shame over the abortion and any after-effects the children suffer.

Some states even allow "wrongful birth" lawsuits in which mothers of "abortion survivors" have sought to recoup the costs of the abortion procedures, of care for a child facing medical problems owing to the failed abortion, and in a few states, of caring for a healthy child.

In 2004, a study in Great Britain found that 50 babies a year live through abortion attempts there. In the U.S., in 2002 Congress passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which made it the law of the land that a child who survives an abortion attempt is immediately entitled to emergency medical treatment and is not to suffer neglect until he dies, as some hospitals had reportedly dealt with abortion survivors.

The most well-known abortion survivor is Gianna Jessen, who survived saline injection at seven and a half months. Jessen suffers cerebral palsy as a result, but she sings, runs marathons, and uses her example to fight abortion, traveling the world speaking out against the legal medical procedure that very nearly killed her. She has testified before state legislatures, Congress, and the House of Lords. Her amazing story can be read in Jessica Shaver's book Gianna: Aborted … and Lived to Tell About It.

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.