Melissa Ohden: a voice for abortion survivors

Part of a series marking the tenth anniversary of the Leaven for the Loaf blog.

My first post about Melissa Ohden, back in 2016, included a video of her testimony to Congress about surviving the attempted abortion that was meant to kill her. After informing members of Congress about the number of documented abortions occurring annually, she went on to say “I was meant to be one of them. I should have been just another statistic.”

photo of Melissa Ohden seated
Melissa Ohden (photo from

Melissa’s advocacy for abortion survivors had started years before. In 2012, she founded the Abortion Survivors Network. The Network is thriving, having brought together hundreds of people who have survived attempts to abort them. They are “more than a choice,” as ASN’s tagline proclaims.

“We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

Melissa Ohden, Abortion Survivors Network

Melissa was kind enough to reply recently when I asked her for an update on her work. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team at The Abortion Survivors Network, five of whom are also abortion survivors. We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

What’s ahead for ASN, and how you can help

What’s ahead for ASN? “We’re currently growing so rapidly that in the next five years, I foresee that we’ll be offering multiple retreats a year, including for families. We’re starting right now to research and implement the best practices of healing and community support for survivors who have also had abortions, themselves, and what care is most supportive to children and teenagers. Contributing what we learn to journals and the pro-life healing community is all part of what we’ll continue to do.”

In New Hampshire, efforts have thus far fallen short to pass “born-alive” legislation to protect children surviving attempted abortion. Other states have seen more success. What has worked, where born-alive laws are enacted? “We’ve continued to see that sharing the stories of survivors, coupled with data about the incidence of born alive survivors is impactful. Just because there are Abortion survivors doesn’t mean born alive legislation isn’t needed (policymakers and the abortion industry attempt to paint that picture).”

What can a person do to support ASN and the survivors it represents? “The average person can educate themselves about born alive survivors (our websites are great resources), learn our stories, and educate policymakers and people around them about this. Most people really have no idea this happens and the frequency to which it does.”

I can add one more thing: read and share Melissa’s book, You Carried Me: a Daughter’s Memoir (2018: Plough Publishing House). She tells her story with compassion and grace.

Post header image by truthseeker08/

Born-alive legislation, 2021

“Any born alive infant, including one born in the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment…Any health care provider present at the time the infant is born shall take all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to the preserve the life and health of the born alive infant.”

That’s the key language from HB 233-FN, the born-alive infant protection bill to be heard in House Judiciary on February 10. The bill seeks to assure that once a child survives abortion – that is, once a pregnancy has been terminated and a living child remains – that child has an enforceable right to medically appropriate and reasonable care.

If you think that’s a good idea, speak up. It’s not an idea that has yet found a place in New Hampshire law. You can sign in using this online form: February 10, House Judiciary, HB 233.

HB 233 may be the definitive way of determining just how much difference the 2020 election made.

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“A privilege that I was not given…the right to be born”

A Congressional committee or subcommittee held a hearing this week on something called “Threats to Reproductive Rights.” Melissa Ohden was there to provide some perspective, clarity, and honest language, which is hard to come by when the day’s theme includes the words “reproductive rights.”

You see, Melissa survived an attempt to abort her. “All of these people here today had a privilege that I was not given. And that is simply: the right to be born…” 

(If the video above is not displaying, look for it on the Facebook page for the Susan B. Anthony List under “videos.”)

I’ve written about her before in this blog’s “Voices to Trust” series. She continues to write and speak about her experiences, and to bring together other abortion survivors who want to tell their stories.

Her book You Carried Me is good to read and good to share. Maybe your local library, or your Member of Congress, could use a copy.

Abortion Survivors: “Don’t Have a Conversation About Us Without Us”

From my latest post at DaTechGuy Blog:

President Trump invited abortion survivors to the White House on February 14 to tell him their own stories. Among the survivors was Melissa Ohden, whose 2017 book You Carried Me is an account of her remarkable life, a life she knows wasn’t supposed to happen.

From Ms. Ohden via Facebook:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It seems like the world is having a conversation about abortion, children surviving abortions, and they don’t realize or acknowledge that there are a group of people who know all too well what everyone is talking about. 

Don’t have a conversation about abortion without those who have survived it. Don’t have a conversation about us, without us. 

Listen to our voices. Share our stories. We’re not hypothetical cases. We’re human beings.

You can find my full post here. Thanks for reading.

Women united for life: the USA’s first Pro-Life Women’s Conference, part 1

Part 1 of 2.

Abby Johnson walked to the podium and brought the crowd to its feet with her first words.  “Can you believe it took 43 years to do this?”

We cheered. We were loud and exuberant, and I for one didn’t care if we could be heard out in the lobby.

No, I can’t believe it took 43 years.

Abby Johnson, Pro-Life Women's Conference 2016. Ellen Kolb photo.
Abby Johnson, Pro-Life Women’s Conference 2016. Ellen Kolb photo.

“It” was the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, held in Dallas on a sultry July weekend. It was the first gathering of its size since Roe v. Wade to be dedicated to the work and the experience of pro-life women.

I came to the conference to break through my little Granite State bubble. Not every state is like mine, with a strong pro-abortion political culture, hostile to the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment by pro-life witnesses, as Gosnell-friendly a state as may be found on a map.

Let me share a bit of what I saw and heard in Dallas. Be challenged, take heart, and look ahead.

A few of the speakers at the Pro-Life Women's Conference. Ellen Kolb photo.
A few of the speakers at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference. Ellen Kolb photo.

Hello, Hyde: women determined to keep Medicaid abortion-free

Secular Pro-Life describes itself as “an organization that unites people of every faith and no faith to promote the right to life.” The group had a significant presence at the conference, and I was glad to see that. Let all of us with peaceful intentions come together.

Stargift at right with other Secular Pro-Life representatives at Pro-Life Women's Conference
Stargift at right with other Secular Pro-Life representatives at Pro-Life Women’s Conference

Secular Pro-Life previewed a big project that we can all get behind: #HelloHyde. The Hyde Amendment turns 40 (!) in September. This rider to federal Health and Human Services appropriations bills bars federal Medicaid money from being used for most abortions. SPL estimates that Hyde has saved over a million lives.

The 40th anniversary is prompting abortion advocacy groups to redouble their longstanding efforts to torpedo Hyde. The Democratic party has even made Hyde repeal part of the party platform. Not so fast, says Secular Pro-Life: we are going to celebrate and expand Hyde!

(Read more about #HelloHyde on the Secular Pro-Life blog. )

The way SPL is launching the effort is perfect: #HelloHyde (that’s a hash tag, y’all, and use it freely on your social media) features photos of children born through the Medicaid program under Hyde. “Thanks for our lives” is the message.

I met Stargift at the conference. She’s an SPL supporter who is one of the faces of #HelloHyde. Her photo on the SPL press release about the campaign gives you a good idea of her infectious energy.  “For forty years, the Hyde Amendment has affirmed that lives like mine are worth living.”

I’ll be writing more about the campaign in the coming weeks. Judging from the reception at the Dallas conference, #HelloHyde is off to a good start.

Women are watching: Abby Johnson rolls out inspection reports on abortion facilities

Even with a law seeking to put women’s health ahead of abortion providers’ profits, Texas abortion facilities have fallen short – which is to say, regulatory authorities have failed to do their jobs. At the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, Abby Johnson presented the first in a series of inspection reports that document abuses that put women at risk.

Ironically, within days of the conference, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Texas law regulating abortion facilities. Johnson responded immediately with still more inspection reports, and a message for the Court and for abortion providers: scrutiny isn’t over.

A few of the inspection reports, including the one featured at the conference, are available here.

Read more about the #NotOver campaign. Take that, Judge Ginsburg.

How about sending the message to the White House? Abby Johnson is leading a petition drive that you can join. 

The faces of A Culture of Life

Culture of Life panel, Pro-Life Women's Conference
Culture of Life panel, Pro-Life Women’s Conference

I can’t help but give a shout-out to my Granite State neighbor, Darlene Pawlik. She is one of the gutsiest women I know. She was in good company at the conference, as part of a panel on Culture of Life.

I feel nervous whenever I’m out for something like 40 Days for Life. These women in Dallas made me squirm. I have no business being nervous when they’re witnessing to their own experiences in front of hundreds of people at a time.

Darlene was on the panel as a member of Save the 1, as was Rebecca Kiessling. Conceived in rape, they challenge rape-and-incest exceptions in laws limiting abortion. They ARE the exceptions. Tough to promote a culture of life while saying “…except for you” to Darlene and Rebecca.

Melissa Ohden led the panel. She survived a saline abortion. Not getting one, but being the target of one at seven months’ gestation. She wasn’t supposed to be born. She survived and was adopted. She talked at the conference about forgiveness for her biological family, which is an amazing thing. She also spoke about the generational effects of abortion, expected and unexpected, even on other family members. Her ministry is called the Abortion Survivors Network. There’s another facet of the culture of life: 40-some-odd years after Roe, we share a culture with people who actually survived attempted abortion. Think about that the next time your legislators turn down a bill to protect abortion survivors.

I hadn’t heard before from the other women on the panel, and they left me in awe.

Claire Culwell is another abortion survivor, who didn’t know the circumstances of her birth until just a few years ago when she met her birth mother. At the age of 13, her mother was subjected to an abortion that actually did take the life of her twin brother. It was a few weeks after the abortion that her mother realized she was still carrying a baby, who was born prematurely.

Claire told us that she speaks in her brother’s honor. She is obviously a witness to his life and to the value of her own, but she also a passionate advocate for alternatives to abortion as she reflects on what her birth mother endured.

The panel also included Rebekah Buell, whose second child was born after abortion-pill reversal. Rebekah took an abortion-inducing drug at a Planned Parenthood facility, and had second thoughts almost immediately. PP was no help. Rebekah sought out and found a physician who performs abortion-pill reversal, and the procedure was successful. She said that PP staff warned her that reversal was a fraud, and that even if it “worked,” her child would be harmed. That turned out to be nonsense. Rebekah isn’t afraid to tell people what PP doesn’t want us to hear.

The panel lasted only an hour. I could have listened to these women all afternoon. They gave me – and probably most of us in the room – a reality check.

By the way, this may seem unimportant, but I couldn’t help but notice something: most of the women in the room were younger than I, many by a generation or more. Claire Culwell and Rebekah Buell are younger than most of my own children.

On second thought, that is important. I see this at every March for Life in Washington, too. The rising generation is pro-life. Courts and legislatures and massive “public policy” budgets by abortion providers to the contrary, people defending the right to life aren’t going away.

There was no siege mentality in Dallas. No woman in sight was conceding loss or discouragement. We’re in it to win it.