Since I’ve determined that some of the media links that I have had on the site for awhile don’t always work, I thought that I would post some of the older articles that some people may not have had a chance to read. This one is from January 2009, written by the Globe-the Sioux City, Iowa diocese.
ABORTED AND SURVIVED
Speaker tells emotional, personal story of abortion at interfaith pro-life service
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Melissa Ohden wasn’t supposed to live a healthy life, get married and have a baby.
The fact is, she wasn’t supposed to live at all.
Ohden, the keynote speaker at the Siouxland Pro-life Interfaith Prayer Memorial, told her miraculous story to a full house at Central Baptist Church in Sioux City.
“Today is not only a chance for me to share my story and hopefully inspire all of you to remain true to what you believe,” said Ohden, who works for the Department of Human Services in Sioux City, “but in another sense, this is another piece of the puzzle for me. This is another part of my healing process so I want to thank all of you for being present with me today as I heal and move forward with my life.”
Over the course of the 36 years of legalized abortion, she mentioned that 50 million lives were ended through abortion.
“I am a product of an unsuccessful saline infusion abortion back in 1977, right here at St. Luke’s,” she said. “For those of you who are not aware, saline abortions involve injecting a caustic saline solution into the amniotic fluid which causes the fetus to be scalded to death and then delivered dead.”
Over a course of five days, Ohden said she endured breathing in and swallowing that toxic salt solution while numerous rounds of pitocin were given to her mother with the intent to induce labor and expel her dead body from her mother’s womb.
“When I was delivered on that fifth day by a nurse, of course, I was believed to be dead,” she said. “Weighing a little over two pounds and suffering from jaundice and severe respiratory distress, my future appeared to be bleak but I was alive.”
Ohden said she was thankful to the medical staff at St. Luke’s who gave her the medical attention she needed to live. She acknowledged that oftentimes when the babies survive abortion attempts, they are not provided with medical care.
Her birth mother had been estimated to be between 18 and 22 weeks pregnant, but later review of medical records estimate the gestation at about 24 weeks.
“The doctors believed that I would suffer from any one of a number of physical, emotional or mental disabilities as a result of the abortion procedure and my subsequent premature birth,” Ohden said.
Her voice filled with emotion and her eyes filled with tears as she said her adoptive parents took a chance on raising a child who might not live.
“I was wanted,” she said. “When people say that there are unwanted children or that unplanned pregnancies automatically mean that a child is unwanted, I know that is so untrue.”
Ohden pointed out that she has only spoken out publicly about her story in the last year-and-a-half. She has struggled with feelings of guilt, shame and anger.
“I know that I am a miracle and I know that I am supposed to be here with all of you,” she said.
The 31-year-old woman mentioned that she had searched for her birth records for 10 years and finally received them in the spring of 2007. She said she hadn’t wanted to share her story until she had made an attempt to contact her parents because there was a part of her that wanted to protect them.
“I wanted to let them know that I am alive, I am well and that I forgive them,” said Ohden, who added that she has not been able to speak with her biological mother in person but has been in contact with her grandfather through a letter. She learned some information about her biological parents, such as that they were college students and had been dating for four years. “I learned that my biological mother went on to have two other daughters and that she had never told anyone about me.”
She had sent a letter to her biological father but had not heard from him. Later, she learned that he died this last summer. His family had been unaware of the situation but found Ohden’s letter in his belongings after his death.
“It breaks my heart to know that my biological father passed on from this world still carrying that shame and that secret,” she said. But through her father’s death and with the secret uncovered, she meets regularly with her paternal grandfather and has communicated with her dad’s wife via e-mail.
While she could hold feelings of bitterness, she stressed the fact that she has chosen to be grateful. If her mother’s abortion would have been successful, Ohden said she would have died before she could have experienced the deep love and affection that a parent has for a child, gotten married or had the many other wonderful life experiences.
“On April 26 this past year, Olivia was born at the very same hospital where my life was supposed to end,” said Ohden of her daughter. “I think that was the way it was supposed to turn out. That place that was supposed to be such a horrible reminder is now a place of great joy for me.”
Despite her forgiving heart, she admitted that in the first weeks of her daughter’s life, she became angry over the thought that had her mother’s abortion been successful, her daughter would not be here.
Part of solution
One of the reasons why she wanted to tell her story, Ohden said, was to be part of the solution rather than just part of the rhetoric. That made it all the more important to join with a pro-life organization that she could be passionate about.
“I’m so glad I found Feminists for Life,” she said. “Our values are shaped by the core feminist values of nondiscrimination, nonviolence and justice for all. Established in 1972, Feminists for Life is a nonsectarian, nonpartisan group organization which seeks real solutions to the problems that women like my biological mother face.”
She said Feminists for Life is driven by the vision that abortion is a reflection that the needs of women have not been met.
“Due to its very nature, we know that abortion is a silent killer,” said the speaker. “Yet it’s not just unborn children that fall victim to the silent killer, it’s the women that have the abortions. It’s the men, grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, the community. We are all attacked by abortion.”
If there were options and resources available to her biological mother, she said she truly believes that her mother would have made a different choice.
“As difficult as it is for me to tell my story, I know this is what I am meant to do,” said Ohden. “The secrets of that fateful day in 1977 end now. I cannot and I will not allow my voice to be silenced by abortion and I encourage all of you to leave today and share my story with others” so they will open their hearts and minds to every human life and the “power of unconditional love and forgiveness.”
She also encouraged those gathered to refuse to choose between women and children because “it doesn’t have to be either or, it is both and.”
Dr. Don Cork of Central Baptist Church, who was the master of ceremonies, summed up the keynote speaker’s presentation well with one word, “wow.” He encouraged those gathered to take up Ohden’s challenge to promote life.
Presentation of roses
Earlier in the program, the interfaith service featured the Presentation of the Roses, which has become a staple of this prayer memorial.
Thirty-six people representing each year from infancy through age 36 carried a rose to the front of the church as Larry Walsh, a member of the spiritual life committee at Trinity Heights, read Scripture verses, famous quotes and pro-life stats.
“These roses are the finest of God’s creation in the flower world,” said Walsh, after the final rose had been placed in the vase. “They represent 36 years of destruction of God’s finest gift to man, an innocent child, full of hope, full of promise – more than 50 million in the United States alone.”
He explained how the roses were to be placed on the Tomb of the Unborn Child to e left out in the cold to wither and die, just as the future sons and daughters of the world die through the cold reality of abortion.
FOCA and 40 Days
Mark Thomason, pro-life contact person for the Diocese of Sioux City, was also invited to say a few words regarding the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and the new pro-life campaign that was introduced in the city last fall, 40 Days for Life.
“I address you as a fellow Christian and an American,” he said. “The days are upon us when we must stand up and fight for life in brand new ways because the threats on life are more formidable at present.”
Abortion, Thomason noted, in the past was something that people didn’t want to think about or talk about. Now, it has moved from something that one must put up with to something perceived as a personal right.
He warned of the dangers of FOCA, how it would remove abortion restrictions and would impact hospitals. He also reminded the people that the new president has said that he would sign FOCA if it came to his desk.
Thomason told them about 40 Days for Life and called it a great way for pro-lifers to voice their message to the people on the streets, which he believes is the best place to spread the word.
He urged them to become involved in the upcoming 40 Days campaign and the Fight FOCA postcard campaign.
“No longer can we as pro-lifers be the silent majority,” said Thomason. “We must become vocal. We must speak out and say no to FOCA and no to abortion.”
Father Brad Pelzel, diocesan vocations director, offered the closing prayer.