Two women who survived abortions themselves pierced the jubilant atmosphere at the 47th annual March for Life on Friday when they faced the crowd of thousands and testified to the real life consequences of a procedure that is so often obscured by euphemism.
Melissa Ohden, the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, survived a saline infusion abortion, a now less common method that was most frequently used several decades ago in the second trimester of pregnancy. For five days, she marinated in a toxic salt solution that poisoned and scalded her tiny unborn body.
“I think that forgiveness is just the overarching issue in many people’s lives, regardless of the issue of abortion,” she told National Review at the March.
“For me as someone who survived an abortion, I think people look upon my life and go, ‘How could you ever forgive someone who tried to end your life?'” she said. “But for me, that’s what being pro-life is, is seeing the humanity of my abortionist, seeing the humanity of my birth mother, of my grandmother, who was responsible for forcing that abortion and who wanted me to be left to die. And so it’s a process.”
“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Ah! I’m great!'” she admitted. “I had to forgive them day in and day out.”
When her own children were born, Ohden said her emotions resurfaced as she contemplated that they never would have existed had her mother’s abortion been successful.
“My faith reminded me to forgive them once again,” she remembered. “And to me it is why I do what I do and I am who I am.”
Now, Ohden said she talks to her birth mother, who sent her daughter a message the morning of the March telling her that she loves and is proud of her.
The mother and pro-life activist said she wants women who have been affected by abortion to know that they can find love and healing within the pro-life movement.
“We are a movement of love. I hope they see that. I hope they hear that. I hope they feel it,” Ohden said.
“I want people to know that they are loved and no matter what decisions they’ve made in their life, how abortion has affected them. And I want them to know there’s a place they can come to heal,” she continued.
Ohden also said she believes the pro-life movement is riding a wave of progress right now and encouraged pro-life Americans not to become complacent and to keep working to end legalized abortion.
“I’ve never been more hopeful,” she said. “I used to tell people that maybe abortion might end in my children’s lifetime, but I now believe it’s going to end in my lifetime.We can’t be complacent right now. There is a lot of work to be done, but we’ve made great progress.”
Another abortion survivor, Claire Culwell, also spoke at the March this year, sharing with the crowd the harrowing story of her birth mother’s failed abortion and the love she now feels for the woman who tried to end her life.
Culwell is the surviving twin of a botched dilation and extraction dismemberment abortion, a method used in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. While she survived the abortionist’s attempt to end her life, her twin did not make it. Culwell, who is adopted, only found out in 2009 that she had survived an abortion when she met her birth mother, who was only 13 when she became pregnant with her.
“She broke down into tears at this moment. She described her abortion that successfully aborted my twin. The pain in her eyes was something that I will never forget,” Culwell said of her mother.
Culwell said she thanked the woman who carried her for nine months for giving her life.
“I realized that there was a face, a name, a story with the unborn child and with the woman contemplating an abortion like my birth mother,” she said.
While she still suffers from physical complications because of her premature birth and being a twin, Culwell told the crowd she considers her life “a miracle.”
“You see, when you look at my face, you see my twin,” she told the marchers. “And when you look at my life, you see the almighty hand of God.”