By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. This appeared on Melissa’s blog. As most of our readers know, in 1977 Melissa survived a saline infusion abortion. She has written many times for NRL News Today and NRL News and appeared numerous times at NRLC’s annual convention.
“Nobody asked to be in this thing, and it’s got a lifetime membership.”
What a profound statement.
In the October 26th edition of USA Today, Rhonda Hart, the mother of Kimberly Vaughan, who was slain in the Santa Fe school shooting earlier this year, painfully detailed how the months preceding the shooting have been for her and her family.
I deeply appreciate Ms. Hart’s honesty, and that of all the family members and friends of victims that were included in the article. I may not be able to understand what they’ve gone through in particular, but I can empathize about the experience of finding yourself in a “club,” a club that’s founded in grief and loss, of suffering, and, of course, one in which you never asked to be a member.
Throughout our lives, we’re all going to find ourselves members of a club, a group, that is punctuated by these circumstances.
Maybe you’re a member of the club of parents who have lost a child through miscarriage or experienced the early death of your child. Maybe you’re the parent of a child with complex health issues or disabilities. Maybe you’re an individual with those health issues or disabilities.
Even though each club is founded often from a place of loss and grief, of difficulty, there is encouragement to be found in knowing you’re not alone in your membership—that others can relate to what you’ve gone through, and you can find support within those members.
As another family member of a student lost remarked about the solidarity they’ve created, the support they’ve found: “they are our family now, because they are the only ones who can understand.”
I can relate to that, too.
Before I discovered that there are other abortion survivors that exist, I felt incredibly alone in this “membership.” And I’m the first person to admit, I didn’t want to be a member.
I would have gladly turned in my card to this group, given the opportunity. Of course, as time has gone on and I’ve healed, as I’ve found purpose in the midst of my pain. As I’ve learned I’m far from alone, I’ve found the strength to not only keep my membership, but be grateful for it. Not everyone is going to experience that, however.
Such is the difficulty in being a member of a club that you didn’t ask to be a part of. There is so much loss, grief, pain, feelings of anger and resentment to overcome, struggles with not being able to control your circumstances or the circumstances of someone you loved, which you battle against. You battle against yourself, against the world, and often, against God.
I share this with you in the hopes to not only encourage empathy towards others who are facing difficult circumstances, but specifically towards survivors and those that know them, those that love them, even those who may treat them in professional settings
Far too often, survivors have been told that they should “just be happy to be alive.” Their depression, anxiety, grief, anger, have been overlooked and under-treated.
Acknowledging we have a lifetime membership to a group we didn’t ask to be a part of is often difficult for others to do, because our very existence flies in the face of our culture that disregards life. We’re seen as somehow a political issue, controversial.
As individuals, we’re not controversial. What was done to us often is for people, though. We’re often reminders to others about the choices they’ve made.
And I must admit, one of the hardest parts of being in this club has been that our membership in it is often questioned, doubted, even ridiculed and made fun of.
Just as with Ms. Hart and the family members interviewed for the USA Today article, unless you’ve been in their shoes, you will likely not understand what it’s like. The same is to be said for survivors.
Although many people can relate to the rejection we’ve often experienced, the suffering—physically, emotionally, mentally—the reality is that most will never understand what it’s like to have a lifetime membership in a group that wasn’t supposed to even have life.
Survivors are a pretty exclusive club. But that doesn’t mean we’re alone. There are hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of abortion survivors that exist in this world. I suspect there are actually more survivors than there are families who have lost a child to gun violence.
If you’re a survivor, please know that although you didn’t ask for a lifetime membership to this group, you’re not alone in it, and The Abortion Survivors Network is always there for you to reach out to for support.
And if you’re one of the people lucky enough to know a survivor personally or through your helping profession, please remember that we didn’t ask to be a member of this club. Someone else’s decision placed us here. Acknowledge that our membership is marked with difficulty and grief, listen to our experiences, encourage us on our journeys of healing, empathize with us, but respect our experiences and our perspectives.
It’s my hope that just as the surviving friends and family of youth lost to gun violence find increasing support in our world, survivors of abortion do, too. Maybe together we can help put the LIFE in lifetime membership, but in this case, in every good way.