Values

My mother tried to abort me. I survived

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An abortion is forced upon a college student against her will.

Miraculously or unfortunately, depending upon what side of the abortion debate you are on, the abortion fails to scald the baby to death over the course of multiple days and she's delivered alive.

After the baby is delivered, demands are made to leave her to die. Nursing staff defy this order and she is whisked off to the nursery in the hopes that if other people know that the baby was born alive, she would have medical care provided to her and not simply be left to die.

With the aid of medical care, love, and a healthy dose of a miracle, the little girl defies the odds and not only survives, but goes on to thrive, lasting no long-term health consequences of the abortion attempt or being born at approximately 31 weeks.

After finding out accidentally as a teenager that she survived an abortion, she ultimately goes searching for her biological parents, her medical records, and the truth about her life.

Nothing could have prepared her for the reality that the circumstances surrounding her survival were even worse than she knew or could have ever imagined.

If it wasn't enough to find out that the abortion was forced upon her birthmother, she would ultimately learn that her own grandmother, a nurse, was responsible for the forced abortion and was there when she was delivered. And sadly, that it was her very grandmother who made the demand that she be left to die.

And if all of that wasn't enough, the greatest secret surrounding the abortion would come to light: her birthmother didn't know that she survived the abortion and was placed for adoption. She never knew….until her daughter contacted her family, started speaking publicly about the issue decades later and the great secret was brought forth to her.

All of this sounds like the storyline of a movie, doesn't it? It's like the sequel to "October Baby," or a Lifetime movie.  Except it's no movie, it's real life. It's the story of my life.

There was a great struggle within me as to whether I would ever share my story publicly or keep it private. Looking back on it all now, I realize that if I would have kept my story private, my biological parents likely never would have known that I survived. And keeping my story a secret would not have done anything to help save the millions of babies who are aborted every year and the women who make an abortion decision or are coerced or even forced into it, like my biological mother was.  I may have had that abortion attempt performed on me in secret; I may have been placed for adoption in secret, but I was not meant to remain a secret.

Abortion is a human rights issue. And I appreciate that the pro-life movement understands and seeks to educate our culture with the reality that abortion doesn't just end a life, it affects multiple lives.  It changes lives.  It changes relationships. I read a statistic once that every abortion affects seven people. If there have been 58 million abortions in the last 44 years, than that equates to 406 million lives being impacted, at a minimum.

Four hundred and six million lives impacted--that number is difficult to wrap your head around. Yet, if you look at the state of our world today--the general disregard so many have for human life, the angry, rhetorical arguments in support of abortion, Planned Parenthood funding, even within the pro-life movement itself as we consider the work of groups like And Then There Were None (ATTWN) and the conversion of abortionists and clinic workers, that lofty number seems all the more palpable.

As we approach the 44th anniversaries of the Roe vs. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, which legalized abortion throughout pregnancy, I ask you to remember that behind all of the statistics, behind all of the arguments for and against abortion, behind all of the peaceful marchers and even angry counter-protestors, behind all of the rhetoric, there are hundreds of millions of stories, from women, men, and family members on both sides of an abortion decision, from doctors, nurses, and clinic workers who performed or assisted with abortions, and yes, even children like me who have survived abortions.

Most of these stories will remain untold, or told in quiet whisper privately versus out loud in the public square, but all of these stories shape the lives of these individuals, their beliefs about abortion, their vote in elections and the pro-life or pro-choice activities they engage in like the West Coast Walk for Life, The March for Life, or yes, even standing with Planned Parenthood and counter-protesting.

Everyone has a story or at some point in their life will have a story that involves abortion, and those stories have a profound influence. 

As we enter into 2017, can I encourage you to spend some time this year truly listening to someone else’s abortion story? Whether you agree with someone’s beliefs or you are vehemently opposed, can I encourage you to simply hear them out and be willing to have a conversation after that? You never know where a seed will plant, and what it will cultivate later.

When you are at the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco or the March for Life in Washington, D.C., could you say a prayer for the person that is counter-protesting, even if they are shouting obscenities or displaying distasteful signs or clothing?

When I speak at the West Coast Walk for Life, throughout my speech, I will be touching on the key points of how the pro-life movement is pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-love.  Everyday, my mission is to live these principles of our movement out, personally and professionally, both with those who are likeminded on the issue of life, and those who are not.  

If I can show love, (as in showing compassion, understanding, listening to, and praying for), to individuals who mock and ridicule me for who I am, what I believe, and what I do as a pro-life advocate, speaker and writer, trust me, you can, too.  I came across a simple quote recently that sums this up perfectly: “You can still love people even if they don’t believe the same things you believe or act the way you act”--Danny Gokey.  And, I would add to this, even if they don’t return the favor back to you.

As you can probably guess, my beliefs about abortion will not be changed by anyone, but I can honestly tell you that it doesn't stop me from listening to someone--from showing them respect--from thanking them for their willingness to stand up for what they believe in--from sticking out a hand to shake, even when I know they are going to turn and walk away from it.

Why? Why would I put myself out there with others who would wish me better off dead? Because everyone has a story. And most are simply left untold. We would all be wise to remember that as the battle for life heats up.

Melissa Ohden is the author of You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network and speaks nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @melissaohden.

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