Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is drawing fire from leftist critics for highlighting the story of abortion survivor Miriam “Penny” Hopper during Wednesday evening’s debate in Milwaukee.
“What the Democrats are trying to do on this issue is wrong, to allow abortion all the way up to the moment of birth,” he said, as he stressed the importance of protecting life. “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.”
“We’re better than what the Democrats are selling,” he insisted.
Critics were quick to suggest the story was exaggerated, or even made up.
“The story of Penny found in the pan by DeSantis is ludicrous, and obviously untrue,” claimed Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt. “It should be looked into by the media.”
The leftist online outlet Jezebel headlined its coverage of the story: “Asked About Abortion, Ron DeSantis Tells Bizarre Story About a Fetus in a Pan.” Though Jezebel admits that Hopper and her story are real, the outlet condemns her story as never having “been fact-checked, probably because it includes no actual facts to check.”
“In a particularly desperate moment during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate,” writes Jezebel’s Kylie Cheung, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) answered a question about abortion by spinning up this little tale.”
Cheung called the story “an obvious gag for attention,” falsely claiming that “abortion all the way up to birth isn’t a thing.” A number of states have no laws that regulate abortion at any point, and high-profile politicians such as Democratic former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam have advocated for allowing babies to die if they are born alive through botched abortions.
The progressive video account The Recount even joked: “A few questions about Penny: is she the mother? Is she the fetus? Does she exist?”
In an interview posted by the pro-life group Faces of Choice, Hopper shared how her mother went to a local clinic in 1956, when she was 23 weeks pregnant, “extremely ill” and “experiencing spotting”—indicating something was likely amiss with her baby (Hopper).
“The doctor arrived at the clinic in his pajamas and night shoes,” she says. “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.’”
“He induced the abortion by giving my mother a shot. He looked at both my parents, and he said, ‘You do not want this baby to live. If it lives, it will be a burden on you the rest of your lives.’ Before returning home, he looked at the nurse, and he gave her orders to discard the baby, dead or alive.”
Hopper says that she was born weighing just 1 pound and 11 ounces.
“The nurse wrapped me in a face towel, placed me in a bedpan on the back porch of the clinic,” she said. “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.”
“I finally did make it to Lakeland, where I was placed under the care of Dr. Johnson. According to my father, he too did not think that my life had value and that I needed to survive.”
Hopper says she had pneumonia several times, and her hair turned a copper-red color from the oxygen she was being given.
“The nurses ended up naming me Penny because of the color of my hair, and that is a name I still carry today.”
“I remained in the hospital until March 12, 1956, and according to my mother, that was the first time she had ever held me. My father passed away in 2011, but before he passed away, he looked at me and said, ‘Honey, I don’t know what I would have done without you.’”
“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.”
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