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DeSantis Gets Touchingly Personal at Debate As He Shares Abortion Survivor's Story

AP Photo/Morry Gash

During the first RNC primary debate, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) went for a personal touch as he not only shared hearing his daughter's heartbeat, but the story of Penny, an abortion survivor. 


"What the Democrats are trying to do on this issue is wrong, to allow abortion all the way up to the moment of birth. I know a lady in Florida named Penny, she survived multiple abortion attempts. She was left discarded in a pan. Fortunately, her grandmother saved her and brought her to a different hospital," DeSantis said. "We're better than what the Democrats are selling. We are not going to allow abortion all the way up till birth, and we will hold them accountable for their extremism." 

Faces of Choice had shared Miriam 'Penny' Hopper's story, which was also included in reporting from The Daily Signal's Mary Margaret Olohan. 

At 23-weeks pregnant, in 1956, Penny's mother went to the doctor feeling "extremely ill." An abortion was induced at the local clinic. "The doctor arrived at the clinic in his pajamas and night shoes," Penny shared. "After examining my mother, he listened for a heart beating. He said, 'I do not hear a heart beating. We are going to have to abort.'"

Testimony shared with the Abortion Survivors Network (ASN) also noted Penny survived a "home abortion attempt."


The doctor had indicated Penny was to be left to die. "He induced the abortion by giving my mother a shot. He looked at both my parents. 'You do not want this baby to live. If it lives, it will be a burden on you the rest of your lives,'" Penny shared. "Before returning home, he looked at the nurse, and he gave her orders to discard the baby, dead or alive."

Penny was born weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces. Penny shared how the nurse "wrapped me in a face towel, placed me in a bedpan on the back porch of the clinic." But her grandmother intervened. 

"My grandmother and my Aunt Ruby came down to visit with my mother. My grandmother, later described by my father, went into orbit when she found out I was alive. She was so upset about the circumstances that she contacted local police. The nurse who cared for my mother volunteered to transport me to Morrell Hospital in Lakeland, Florida," Penny shared.

Penny's testimony for ASN offered more about her grandmother. "My grandmother’s exclamation, 'She’s Alive!' shifted the narrative of my existence. Once an unwanted burden, I became a patient worthy of care," she shared. "Escorted by the nurse and police, we were taken to Morrell Hospital in Lakeland, Florida, to get more care even though my survival remained uncertain. A charitable organization provided the hospital with an incubator, which became my sanctuary for months. I was so small and fragile; that I was fed with an eyedropper."


Penny had pneumonia, bronchitis, and a paralyzed vocal cord. But she survived. Her hair turned copper from the oxygen she was given. "The nurses ended up naming me Penny because of the color of my hair, and that is a name I still carry today," she shared.

"I remained in the hospital until March 12, 1956, and according to my mother, that was the first time she had ever held me," Penny said. That had been her due date. 

"I confronted my father about the circumstances of my birth" in 2010, the year before he died. "He explained they couldn’t support another child at that time, his fears of an ever-growing family, and revealed the painful truth about life," Penny shared for ASN. Relatives have shared more about my beginning, revealing my mother’s attempt to induce a miscarriage. Before his passing in 2011, my father expressed gratitude for my presence and support in his life, erasing doubts of me being a burden."

The video ends on a positive note. "No matter what circumstances my parents were facing surrounding my mother’s pregnancy, I ended up having great parents. I ended up having a great life. I ended up with a brother who’s my best friend. I ended up marrying my high-school sweetheart. I have two children and seven grandchildren. Life has value, and all lives matter," Penny shared. 

"Despite the adversity, my parents’ love prevailed. Doctors’ grim predictions were denied. I have gratitude for everyone who touched my life and gave me hope," she said in testimony for ASN. 


That DeSantis mentioned the uncomfortable truth sent the left into a frenzy, evidenced in part through headlines from the media. Jezebel's "Asked About Abortion, Ron DeSantis Tells Bizarre Story About a Fetus in a Pan," is particularly noteworthy, since "fetus" is not the correct term for a baby already born. PolitiFact nevertheless cited the article in a fact-check claiming Penny's story was "improbable" and "medically dubious."

Penny is not the only one. The Faces of Choice's YouTube channel also shares the stories of other survivors, their mothers, a former abortionist, and a rejected Super Bowl ad

One of the survivors is Melissa Ohden, the president and CEO of ASN. 

"Life is at the core of our Democracy,” said Ohden in a statement about the debate. "The GOP debate highlighted that the issue of life is just as important today as it was at our nation’s founding. We challenge the candidates to envision a society in which women are supported no matter the circumstance of their pregnancy, and the generational trauma of abortion ends. The truth is that abortions fail, abortions can be stopped and chemical abortions can be reversed. Our nation will only heal when we address the trauma abortion causes abortion survivors, their mothers, and their families."


Data is hard to come by, but it does speak to babies being born alive. As the Charlotte Lozier Institute explains:

Because of gaps in national and state abortion reporting, and the continued opposition of abortion advocacy groups to more accurate and detailed reporting, relatively little is known about how often survival now occurs after abortion. The number is certainly not zero. The Charlotte Lozier Institute has engaged in a multi-year effort to obtain abortion data from the 49 jurisdictions that voluntarily provide annual summaries of abortion incidence to the CDC. Only eight states have publicly reported or responded to requests for statistics on children marked for abortion who were born alive during abortion procedures (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas). In just four of these eight states (Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, and Texas), 35 children were born alive during attempted abortions in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, Florida reported eight babies born alive in 2022.

The CDC estimates that between 2003 and 2014, at least 143 babies died after being born alive during abortions, and the CDC acknowledges it is very possible that this undercounts the actual number. Additionally, the CDC report counts only babies who were born alive during abortions and then later passed away – it does not include babies who survived attempted abortions and are still alive.


There are also testimonies. Jill Stanek, formerly a nurse at Christ Hospital, served as a whistleblower when she discovered that the hospital's abortion method involved leaving abortion survivors to die in utility closets. 

Other stories include infants who were born alive and murdered, such as through drowning or suffocation. 

At the debate, DeSantis had been asked if he would sign a heartbeat bill as president. He signed such a law for Florida in April. "I'm going to stand on the side of life. Look, I understand, Wisconsin is going to do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president," he answered in part. 

After the debate, DeSantis earned the endorsement from former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life activist Abby Johnson.

"So, pro-life America, we have a choice to make. We can choose the man who will beat Joe Biden and restore morality in our culture," Johnson wrote in her opinion piece at "Or, we can choose to let radical leftists continue to plague society by stripping the lives of our next generation. I’ve made my decision. Ron DeSantis is the most pro-life candidate running and he will be the pro-life President that America needs."

The left was apoplectic by the abortion issue in general, as Madeline covered. This included former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Katie Couric, and former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). 


Democrats, via the Women's Health Protection Act, support abortion up until birth for any reason without legal limit throughout the country. They also oppose legislation protecting babies born alive from abortions. 

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