Awareness is growing about abortion survivors

By Melissa Ohden

Editor’s note. Melissa, the survivor of a “failed” saline abortion in 1977, speaks all over the world including at the last two National Right to Life Conventions.  She writes regularly for National Right to Life News Today.

Melissa Ohden, who will speak at the 2013 NRLC Convention, is an abortion survivor

Melissa Ohden, who will speak at the 2013 NRLC Convention, is an abortion survivor

The floodgates have been opened.  Recently, I wrote for National Right to Life News Today about how the abortion conversation has shifted over the past forty years (http://nrlc.cc/11hjPl9). I wrote about how medical research, the revealing power of ultrasound, and the powerful experiences of post-abortive women and men have made it very difficult for abortion advocates to deny the humanity of the unborn.

I also briefly mentioned how the lives of abortion survivors, like me, are living testament to the humanity of the unborn. I would like to delve a little deeper into that today.

Until recently, not much was known about the prevalence of survivors of abortion, and therefore, there was not much mention of us publicly, even within the pro-life movement.  But the floodgates have opened, and discussion of survivors has been popping up frequently in at least pro-life media.

There were the calls for infanticide (euphemistically labeled “after birth abortion”) and the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell who stands accused of aborting seven viable babies and then killing them by slitting their spinal cords—to name just two.

And then there was the now infamous statement of Planned Parenthood Lobbyist Alissa LaPolt Snow who was asked about Planned Parenthood’s stance regarding the care and treatment of the baby who survived a “botched abortions.” Snow replied, “That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider” (http://nrlc.cc/XTGMfh).

Florida State Representative Cory Pigman, an emergency room doctor, testified that neonatal death records indicated that 1,250 children survived abortions in the U.S.  Although there has been a lot of question about the origin and validity of this statistic—and more research is needed– I wanted to use my experiences as the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network (www.theabortionsurvivors.com) to provide some insight into the statements of State Rep. Pigman.

Certainly, the pro-life community knows that the number of abortions, including the babies’ ages, is not always accurately reported. The difficulty in determining the incidence of survivors, therefore, is not surprising.

Rough estimates–“soft” numbers–are prevalent.  Yet there are “hard” numbers that have been reported in other countries that are useful in not only analyzing the incidence of survivors there, but also in tentatively generalizing these findings to the U.S.  

In November 2012, Statistics Canada, Canada’s official statistics agency, confirmed that 491 babies died after they were born alive during abortions between 2000 and 2009 (http://nrlc.cc/XTHw4c).

In Western Australia, it was documented that from July 1999 to June 2010 there were 14 cases of “late-term” abortions that resulted in the live birth of a child. In all of these cases, no treatment or resuscitation attempts for these babies were recorded.

In the state of Victoria, also in Australia, there were 54 babies born alive after failed abortions in 2007.  Some may remember that abortion was legalized up until the point of birth in Victoria the very next year, 2008.  Despite statements denying that this move would have an impact, late term abortion has dramatically increased in Victoria since that time.  One can only imagine how the number of survivors has also increased significantly.

According to statistics provided by the South Australia Health Department, approximately seven aborted babies are ‘born alive’ each year, although some years it has been much higher, such as 14 babies in 2001 and 13 babies in 2004.

According to a report by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), at least 66 infants survived National Health Service-funded abortion attempts in one year alone in the U.K.

Although these numbers are likely under-reported, they are worth taking a good look at and using to make some solid generalizations.  If you take into account Australia’s population in proportion to the number of abortions that occur there each year, you will find that their abortion rate is pretty much on par with that of the U.S.

Knowing this, we could then estimate that minimally there are 75 children who survive abortions in the U.S. each year.  Forty years of legalized abortion with a minimal number of 75 children surviving would equate with approximately 3,000 survivors in the U.S. alone. Minimally.

My experience with survivors, however, tells me that the number is much greater than this, and even more so, that the stories of our lives and what we’ve experienced, is something that can’t be measured.  Over the past 5 ½ years I have heard from or met other abortion survivors continuously.  I have now been in contact with over 127 other survivors, with the majority coming from here in the U.S.

Surviving an abortion takes place much more often than what was first recognized and certainly much more often than what is reported and talked about.  However, far too many survivors live their lives in fear of what the culture of death we live in says about what happened to us (it was simply a choice, we didn’t have any rights, we were not yet human). They also believe that they must be the only one, and therefore, there is no one to whom they can turn for understanding or expect to stand up with them to raise awareness to the plight of survivors.

I can’t help but think of what a difference it would make in the lives of survivors to have a more accurate picture of how many of us there actually are.  I can’t help but think about what a difference it would make in our world if we had a more accurate number of survivors to focus people’s attention on.

Just as research, ultrasound, and the testimonies of post-abortive men and women have radically changed the conversation about abortion and the humanity of the unborn, I believe that the prevalence of abortion survivors, these hard and soft numbers, when it comes to the incidences of survivors in this world, have the potential to further the cause of life in the face of a culture of death.

I will be sharing more in-depth information about the lives of abortion survivors at the upcoming National Right to Life Convention in Dallas in June.  Until then, could you do me a favor? Could you share the little bit about abortion survivors that I have passed along today? You never know the difference that it’s going to make in someone’s life by sharing it with them.

You never know….that very person may be a survivor themselves, or know someone who is.