Abortion survivor shares her story

Dubuque County Right to Life and Duhawks for Life bring Melissa Ohden, national pro-life speaker to campus

On Thursday Oct. 1, Duhawks for Life and Dubuque County Right to Life hosted Melissa Ohden, a nationally recognized pro-life speaker and abortion survivor, to share her story. About 35 people from Loras College and the Dubuque community attended the talk held in St. Joseph’s Hall of Science.

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Christine McDonald, president of Duhawks for Life; Caitlin Hansen, secretary; pro-life speaker Melissa Ohden; and Ava Lalor, promotions chair, pose after Ohden’s talk. Photos by Ava Lalor

Christine McDonald, president of Duhawks for Life, opened the event with a quick prayer asking that everyone may have the strength to defend all human life.
Ohden attended Buena Vista University for her undergraduate studies and then continued her education at the University of Iowa where she received her master’s degree in social work. She pursued a career in social work for many years before she decided to become a pro-life speaker and share her powerful story.

“I am here to share the story of a life that we don’t hear about in our society,” she said. “I know that it is a pretty radical life story, but I want people to know that everyone’s life is as important as mine.”

Ohden grew up in Storm Lake, Iowa, where she was raised by her adoptive parents. But her story starts in Sioux City, Iowa, where her biological family was from. In 1977, Ohden’s mother had an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 19. Her mother, Ohden’s biological grandmother, was a prominent nurse at St. Luke’s hospital in Sioux City, and she forced her daughter to get a saline infusion abortion, a procedure in which a toxic salt solution is injected into the amniotic fluid with the intention of scalding the child to death from the outside in.

But this was not to be Ohden’s fate. After her mother underwent an induced birth expecting the abortion to be successful, Ohden was born alive though her mother never knew until 30 years later. When her grandmother realized she had survived the abortion, she demanded that Ohden be left to die. Somehow, two nurses heard about the failed abortion.

“Because of them, I am here tonight,” Ohden stated. Soon after, Ohden’s adoptive parents came into her life. The moment they saw her for the first time, they fell in love with her.

“And I am the first person to admit that I was not a pretty baby,” she said. Because of the attempted abortion, she had many medical problems such as respiratory and liver complications, which kept her in the hospital for the first three months of her life. For the first 14 years of her life, Ohden lived happily with her adoptive parents and siblings. Her older sister was also adopted.

“Adoption is not always easy,” she said. But, “Adoption is the option that everyone can live with…especially the adopted child.”
It was not until she was 14 that she was told that she was supposed to have been aborted. While she was angry at her biological and adoptive families, she eventually realized that she needed to forgive them. When she was 19, Ohden began her search of finding her biological family. After ten years, St. Luke’s hospital revealed her medical records.

Fortunately for Ohden, the hospital forgot to black out her parents’ names, so she was able to continue her search for her biological family.
It took Ohden many more years to accept her call as a pro-life speaker. Many people told her to never share her story.

“Learn from my mistakes,” she told the group. “You don’t have to be silenced about being pro-life. You don’t have to be silenced about your religious beliefs. Learn from my mistakes.”

She ended her talk by telling those in attendance that we are all called to do something in defense of life.

“God doesn’t call those who are equipped. He equips those who are called,” she said.
Ohden recently spoke before Congress in the wake of the recent Planned Parenthood video scandal. For more information about Melissa Ohden, visit melissaohden.com or theabortionsurvivorsnetwork.com.

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