HomeoldAbortion Survivors Break Their Silence: An invaluable resource in Post-Roe America

Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence: An invaluable resource in Post-Roe America

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Editor’s Note: This article was published in the February issue of National Right to Life News. It is recommended that this information be shared with pro-life family and friends.

For the majority of individuals, Melissa Ohden represents the face of a “failed abortion.” It is likely that you are already familiar with the abridged version of Melissa’s extraordinary account, which continues to impress me to this day. In 1977, she survived a saline infusion abortion, a technique that was so dangerous to the mother that it is virtually no longer used anywhere. She was subsequently adopted by a family who provided her with a loving and nurturing environment.

Melissa was aware of her adoption, but it was not until her sister became pregnant that she learned that she had survived a five-day prostaglandin abortion, which was a particularly painful procedure. A series of events, as detailed in her book You Carried Me, led to this discovery. In her memoir, A Daughter’s Memoir, she discovered that her birth parents had been engaged to be married. They had dated for four years before her birth mother became pregnant with Melissa. She is convinced that her birth parents would have carried Melissa to term before her grandmother intervened. To her great satisfaction, she and her birth mother have since reconciled.

In 2012, Melissa established The Abortion Survivors Network (ASN), which has facilitated contact with over 700 individuals who have undergone abortion, as well as their friends and family members. The ASN is the sole organization dedicated to providing healing and advocacy services for individuals who have undergone abortions, as well as their friends and family members.

RL News: You begin the book with this epigram:

To my community of abortion survivors around the world:

May this book show you that you are seen,

You are heard, and you are not alone.

Whether you break your silence publicly

or whisper it quietly, you matter…

Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence is a book that shines a light in the darkness.

What did you mean?

Melissa: It is a fact that abortion survivors exist throughout the world. It is evident that this is not the case when one considers the mainstream media reporting of abortion survivors. Until recently, those of us who have chosen to share our experiences publicly have been the only examples that other abortion survivors have had to draw upon.

It is often implausible for survivors to speak up due to family dynamics and expectations, which can be detrimental to their well-being. However, it is not necessary for survivors to share their experiences in order to be validated. It is my hope that they will understand that if they choose not to share their story publicly, their story and their life still matter. The capacity to speak out is not a prerequisite for the validation of one’s worth.

NRL News: All books have a history. Please describe the circumstances that led to your collaboration with Cindy Lambert and the writing of Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence at this specific point in time.

Melissa: In all candor, the journey to reach 2024 has been a protracted one. This book has been a long-standing aspiration of mine. In early 2020, following the launch of “Faces of Choice” as a successor to “Face the Choice,” I perceived the subsequent logical step in terms of awareness about survivors to be this book. I hold Cindy’s work in high regard, particularly Unplanned, and I am grateful that she consented to collaborate with me on this project.

From 2020 onward, there has been a series of developments in the publishing industry. Upon the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Dobbs case in 2022, I reflected on the fact that the book’s release had not yet occurred. I genuinely believed that it would have constituted an invaluable contribution to the dissemination of information and the advancement of knowledge on the subject. It became evident after the Dobbs decision that the timing of this book is indeed optimal. This book is of greater necessity now than ever before.

NRL News: You make a crucial observation: not only have abortion survivors been absent from the national discourse on abortion, but the country has also been impoverished by the absence of their authentic life experiences.

Melissa: Narratives are efficacious. The most powerful narratives are often those that are most frequently obscured by the weight of secrets, shame, cultural perceptions, or cultural narratives on issues such as abortion.

NRL News: Dr. Christian Francis is the CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She wrote this about the book: “Melissa Ohden and Cindy Lambert shine a light on the fight to defend the dignity of all human beings.” There is that constant theme of giving voice to the voiceless.

Melissa: We all speak up for the voiceless unborn. Survivors speak up for the voiceless survivors. Women who share their stories speak up for other women who have been voiceless for so long.

NRL News: You write that you survived an attempted abortion at St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Once you revealed this, your life changed. I was angry at first. I am grateful that my angry feelings eventually gave way to a closer relationship with my birth mother, which still exists today. “I’m amazed at how my adoptive parents handled my identity crisis after this revelation.”

I imagine that anyone who finds out they survived an abortion would be angry. Do you think that’s true? Do many people reconcile with their birth mothers?

Melissa: Anger is normal when someone is wronged. It’s also connected to the fight-or-flight response, which affects survivors in the womb. So it makes sense that most survivors are angry when they first find out. But the anger is about the situation, not the person. Our lives were in danger. That has affected our lives. The abortion process can cause disabilities. We feel more sadness than anger towards our biological parents. These are the people we expect to protect us. But when we learn how they got the abortion, we can connect with the person behind the story (often the birth parents). When we learn more about them, we often feel love and forgiveness.

We’ve found that more survivors are raised by their biological mothers than by adoptive parents. We need to talk with mothers and survivors who’ve been affected by failed, stopped, and reversed abortions. These families have been overlooked and not served. This is important.

Without support, shame, neglect, and abuse can occur. A “successful” abortion is not the solution. The solution is to understand that abortions can result in live births. All those affected by abortion—babies, women, families—need support at the earliest point of intervention.

NRL News: There are twelve stories in Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence. I assume you could have included many more, right?

Melissa: There may be another book in the works already.

NRL News: What is the Abortion Survivors Network?

Melissa: We’ve connected with over 700 survivors worldwide. This last year, we started support groups for moms and adoptive parents. You can contact us anytime. We also held our first annual “Babies Survive Abortions Awareness” month this past September. Look for more stories and campaigns. We also launched our Advocates and Ambassadors. These are survivors who share their stories and raise awareness. We’re always busy, and we’re humbled by how we’re called to serve. You’ll see us at the National Right to Life Convention later this year. Learn more through some of our Ambassadors’ stories.

NRL News: Any other topics you want to discuss?

Melissa: We’re training Pregnancy Resource Centers, adoption agencies, sidewalk counselors, and medical professionals. They can talk with women whose babies survived an abortion, adoptive parents, and survivors. More to come on that. We’ll also be talking about this soon.

NRL News: How can NRL News readers order copies of Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence?

Melissa: You can buy the book at any bookstore. You can find links on our website to buy the book and see more stories.

NRL News: Thank you, Melissa.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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