I have just been reading a moving addition to pro-life literature: You Carried Me, by Melissa Ohden (Plough Publishing House). What gives her memoir a slightly different slant to most is that Melissa, born in August 1977, is one of the small group of babies who actually survived an abortion; in her case, an injection of saline solution. She is now founder of the Abortion Survivor Network and a public speaker on behalf of all men women and children who have suffered through abortion.
Her story reminds one again that, contrary to what its promoters say, abortion is never a safe or simple “procedure”; it always produces wounds, mental and spiritual if not physical, that can surface many years later, as women struggle to come to terms with their past and to understand why they allowed such a sorrowful event to take place. In Ohden’s case, having been adopted and raised by a loving Christian family, her questions were finally answered when she met her birth mother in 2016 after many years of searching and frustrated dead ends. It seems that her mother, a 19-year-old college student at the time, had been forced by her own mother, a nurse, to reject her steady boyfriend and to be aborted against her will. Indeed, she told her daughter that she had tried to leave the abortion clinic with her twin sister, but had been forced back. She wasn’t told that her baby daughter had survived; her signature on the adoption certificate had been forged.
Ohden, who hid her pain at discovering the true circumstances of her birth in an eating disorder, alcohol and promiscuity during adolescence, was gradually healed both by the loving support of her adoptive parents and her Christian faith. Confirmed in the Methodist Church she chose a verse from Jeremiah that gave meaning to her life: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart.” Many years later, and still searching for her birth parents, she came to realise that her “true identity” didn’t come from her human parentage “but from my Creator.”
Now happily married with two daughters, Ohden has become a Catholic – a spiritual journey that began when years before she had gone to buy contraceptives from a Planned Parenthood facility and had been given a rosary by a pro-life activist she met there, to whom she had told her story. His response was to tell her that Planned Parenthood was an abortion clinic and to urge: “You should be here [with us], not there!”
It was in 2013, celebrating her 36th birthday that Ohden first received a direct communication from her birth mother. That email said, “Thirty-six years ago I was robbed of you. How I wish things could have been different.” So much regret and heartache lie behind those words. They should spur all of us to continue to witness to the tragedy of abortion in every way we can. It is not just one of many worthwhile issues, like protecting the environment; it is the fundamental issue of our time.