Melissa Ohden survived her mother’s abortion – and that’s just the beginning of the story
January 10th, 2017
By Valerie Schmalz
Melissa Ohden was delivered during a saline infusion abortion, a 2-pound, 14-ounce baby suffering jaundice and respiratory distress after undergoing five days of inhaling toxic salt and Pitocin laced amniotic fluid.
An adopted child, she did not learn the facts of her birth until she was 14 during a childhood argument with her sister.
Not until last year did she meet her birth mother and learn that her birth mother was forced to abort her – and that her twin sister – and Melissa’s aunt – tried to help the pregnant 19-year-old escape from the hospital during the abortion procedure in Sioux City, Iowa, Aug. 29, 1977.
“It was literally forced upon her. She was given no other choice. We know that is representative of so many women,” said Ohden, who will speak at the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco on Jan. 21.
Ohden, who is now based in Kansas City, founded the Abortion Survivors Network, theabortionsurvivors.com. She counts 210 people who were born alive during an abortion. She says there may be many more – those are only the ones who have contacted her.
“I appeared to have a bleak future, but I was alive,” Ohden wrote in an account in 2007 for The American Feminist. She was adopted by parents who knew “full well that as they opened their hearts and their home to me, they took a chance on raising a child who would quite probably not live past her infancy. If I did survive, I would more than likely be disabled.”
For years, Ohden said she “struggled with strong feelings of guilt for being physically, mentally and emotionally able; I know full well that millions of babies each year are not as lucky as I was.”
Today, Ohden told Catholic San Francisco, both her and her birth mother’s experiences highlight another often disregarded aspect of abortion.
“As a woman we often hear about abortion being a right. As a woman who survived an abortion, where is my right in that? Certainly the other piece of that is the rights of my biological mother. I spent years thinking she chose to abort me,” Ohden said. “It was literally forced upon her, she was given no other choice.”
For 39 years her birth mother believed Melissa had died in the abortion, as Melissa’s adoption was arranged without her knowledge, Ohden said. To learn her child was alive, married, with two children, and a successful career, was like a dream.
“It’s like a fantasy and it’s also a horror story. Her own sister tried to break her out of the hospital,” said Ohden who said her birth grandmother was a nurse and was responsible for arranging and was present for the abortion. The 19-year-old’s sister was brought to see her because apparently she was in danger of dying. “My aunt was saying to my birth mom – do you want this? And she was saying, no, gosh, no,” said Ohden, for whom the whole story is still fresh because she met her birth mother less than a year ago.
“My aunt tried to break her out of the hospital and the nurses told her it is too late and you will kill her too,” Ohden said.
Ohden has written a book, “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir” (The Plough Publishing House, Jan. 9, 2017). Her birth father died before she could contact him.
“I not only share my survival and my search for my biological family, I ultimately get to share how I’ve been united with her. It is honestly like nothing I could ever imagine,” Ohden said. “I met her face to face for the first time just late last spring. What I love about the book is that it not only shares my story, but her story.”
“I was scared to write the book because I wanted to protect her. When I finally sent it off to her, her response was she loved it,” said Ohden, who first met her mother in person at a zoo with her half-sister and her children – where the little cousins immediately took each other’s hands. “It is the way God wanted the story to end. Who could have imagined 39 years ago? A forced abortion. The baby was meant to die and no one would ever know,” said Ohden. Today there is “love, forgiveness. We’re part of each other’s lives. We’re committed to each other.”
For her adoptive mother and father, the story has been challenging too, because her parents did not know her birth mother was forced into the abortion and did not even know Melissa was alive. “My birth mother is thankful for my adoptive parents. There is so much love and respect on both sides.”
From January 12, 2017 issue of Catholic San Francisco.