Woman who survived abortion attempt to speak at Walk for Life West Coast

Melissa Ohden, founder of Abortion Survivors Network and pictured in this 2013 photo, was to speak Jan. 21 at the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. (CNS photo/courtesy Melissa Ohden)

by Valerie Schmalz

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Melissa Ohden was delivered during a saline infusion abortion, a 2-pound, 14-ounce baby suffering jaundice and respiratory distress after undergoing five days of inhaling toxic salt and Pitocin-laced amniotic fluid.

An adopted child, she did not learn the facts of her birth until she was 14 during a childhood argument with her sister.

It wasn’t until last year that Ohden met her birth mother. She learned that her birth mother was forced to undergo the abortion procedure and that her mother’s twin sister — Melissa’s aunt — tried to help the pregnant 19-year-old escape from the hospital during the procedure in Sioux City, Iowa, Aug. 29, 1977.

“It was literally forced upon her. She was given no other choice. We know that is representative of so many women,” said Ohden, who will speak Jan. 21 at the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.

Ohden, who is now based in Kansas City, founded the Abortion Survivors Network, online at theabortionsurvivors.com. She counts 210 people who were born alive during an abortion. She said there may be many more. Those are only the ones who have contacted her.

“I appeared to have a bleak future, but I was alive,” Ohden wrote in an account in 2007 for The American Feminist. She was adopted by parents who knew “full well that as they opened their hearts and their home to me, they took a chance on raising a child who would quite probably not live past her infancy. If I did survive, I would more than likely be disabled.”

For years, Ohden “struggled with strong feelings of guilt for being physically, mentally and emotionally able. I know full well that millions of babies each year are not as lucky as I was.”

Today, Ohden told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, that her experience and that of her mother highlight another often disregarded aspect of abortion.

“As a woman, we often hear about abortion being a right. As a woman who survived an abortion, where is my right in that? Certainly the other piece of that is the rights of my biological mother. I spent years thinking she chose to abort me. It was literally forced upon her, she was given no other choice,” Ohden said.

For 39 years, her birth mother believed Melissa had died in the abortion, as Melissa’s adoption was arranged without her knowledge, Ohden said. To learn her child was alive, married, with two children and a successful career, was like a dream.

Ohden has written a book, “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir,” which was published in early January. Her birth father died before she could contact him.

“I not only share my survival and my search for my biological family, I ultimately get to share how I’ve been united with her. It is honestly like nothing I could ever imagine,” Ohden said. “I met her face to face for the first time just late last spring. What I love about the book is that it not only shares my story, but her story.”

“I was scared to write the book because I wanted to protect her. When I finally sent it off to her, her response was she loved it,” said Ohden, who first met her mother in person at a zoo with her half-sister and her children — where the little cousins immediately took each other’s hands.

“It is the way God wanted the story to end. Who could have imagined 39 years ago? A forced abortion. The baby was meant to die and no one would ever know,” Ohden said. Today there is “love, forgiveness. We’re part of each other’s lives. We’re committed to each other.”

For her adoptive mother and father, the story has been challenging too, because her parents did not know her birth mother was forced into the abortion and did not even know Melissa was alive. “My birth mother is thankful for my adoptive parents. There is so much love and respect on both sides.”

Copyright ©2017 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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