By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. Melissa, the survivor of a “failed” saline abortion in 1977, speaks all over the world, including at numerous National Right to Life Conventions. She is an author, the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network, and a contributor to National Right to Life News .
Abortion survivors remain a mystery to most. Even if you’ve been involved in the pro-life movement for decades and have met a handful of us, we are still by and large a bit of an enigma outside of our own community.
This is understandable, certainly when it comes to the general public. If the presumption that is drilled in day in and day out is true–that abortion procedures are “safe”–what is there to survive? But this begs the question. Safe for whom?
So who is an “abortion survivor,” really? The term has been cynically misappropriated by some. They attempt to turn the focus from where it belongs—babies who survive the abortionist’s best efforts to kill them–to mean women who had an abortion and survives doing so.
Incredibly, some have gone so far as to liken a woman who has aborted to a cancer survivor, complete with a ribbon of color associated with their “disease” and the clanging of a bell when “treatment” is completed.
Stories about babies who survive abortions clearly tell us (if we are willing to listen) that, yes, some children narrowly escape with their lives intact, perhaps not with all their limbs or maybe with a visible mark of the attempt, but alive.
Some, like me, bear no physical mark at all. I was born alive 44 years ago after a saline abortion “failed” to kill me. So, too, for Claire Culwell, host of the “Called to Be Bold” podcast. Claire has a new book out, ”Survivor: An Abortion Survivor’s Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption.”
Claire’s story is so remarkable on so many levels. She was a twin and her brother’s physical presence obscured hers. The abortionist believed his work was “done” when he killed Claire’s brother. Claire survived and was eventually adopted by a loving family!
In these circumstances, no one is more surprised by a true abortion survivor – the child who lives – than the parents and the medical “expert” who failed to properly suck out, chemically eradicate, dismember, or induce and let die, a child. In language straight out of Orwell’s “1984,” the tiny survivor is reduced to a “botched abortion” or a “failed abortion.”
Significant effort to cover up or ignore the existence of abortion survivors has occurred for as long as abortions, legal and illegal, have been performed. The Abortion Survivors Network, which I’m blessed to have founded and now lead, has connected 384 survivors since 2012, working with whole families toward healing, where possible.
And, when undeniable evidence is provided that abortion survivors exist, whether it be at a pro-life rally, in a news article, or during expert witness testimony before Congress, the next step is to diminish these lives as a “rare exception.” What is “needed” is not compassion and outreach but failsafe abortion procedures.
As many of us remember, on January 22, 2019—the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade— New York State decided to clarify that abortion up until birth is legal. When aborting a full-term child requires delivery, is “birth” defined as a celebrated birth or an uncelebrated one? The answer to New York Gov. Cuomo and the legislator was clearly the latter.
Each of those 384 abortion survivors is a unique human being, just like you. There are no more or less human now than they were in the womb when they were subjected to the brutality of an attempted abortion.
Who knows what percentage that 384 represent of the whole of abortion survivors? This is certainly not a conversation a parent freely enters into or would likely want to share.
While some abortion survivors are raised by adoptive parents and are unaware of the birth circumstances, others continue to remain with their birth parents. Still other abortions survivors live very difficult lives.
We’re witnessing the generational impact of abortion through these survivors’ lives. Our survivor community includes women who have taken someone to an abortion clinic, worked in abortion clinics, or have had abortions themselves. Difficult as it is to believe, many of our survivors who have had abortions report feeling pressured to abort their own child to make up for the “failed” abortion that resulted in them being born alive.
There is a reason pro-abortion legislators and the abortion industry fight legislation to ensure that babies who survive an abortion receive equal treatment to any other baby born at the same age so hard. A recent groundbreaking report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that in just the last two years, 33 children across four states were born alive, only to be left to die alone in a clinic!
If their fates were known, would their story have led international news? Would Go Fund Me Campaigns been launched? T-shirts made? Representatives called?
Rare as it may be, every single media outlet that shines light on the story of an abortion survivor gives all who know and all those who will never know their survival story the recognition and dignity each has fought for so hard.
An article—any article—about one of these 33 Americans left to die by medically trained personnel represents a glimmer of justice. That’s one of the reasons why alongside you, we celebrate when survivor feel sufficiently healed, empowered, and called upon to share their story publicly, as my friend Claire did this week.
Until it’s safe for abortion survivors to be their authentic selves in our world; until families are healed from the shame that keeps so many of them locked in silence over a “failed abortion,” we take consolation in small victories.
Why? Simply because a victory for one survivor is a victory for all survivors. And a victory for all survivors is a victory for all of us, in and outside our Movement.
No human being should ever be reduced to a “choice. ”