Abortion supporters regularly point to women’s stories to justify their position. But now, two pro-life women are sharing their personal stories about abortion in an attempt to expose abortion for what it is: the intentional destruction of innocent human life that negatively impacts women.
On June 16, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). Two pro-life witnesses testified during the hearing: Melissa Ohden, the founder and director of Abortion Survivors Network, and Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life. Both shared their personal stories, with one speaking as an abortion surviver and the other speaking as a post-abortive woman.
They spoke in an effort to challenge the WHPA, which intends to protect “health care providers” by allowing them to perform abortion “without limitations or requirements that single out the provision of abortion services for restrictions.” This applies to restrictions that are “more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures” and those which “make abortion services more difficult to access.”
As an abortion survivor, Melissa Ohden encouraged those present to ask themselves “how can access to abortion, the very act that should have ended my life, simultaneously be my fundamental right to exercise?”
Her earliest stages in life, she said, were “interrupted by abortion.”
Her 19-year-old biological mother named Ruth, in 1977, “had a saline infusion abortion forced upon her by her mother,” who was a “prominent nurse in their community.” Together, she and the local abortionist tried to end Melissa’s life.
“This procedure involved injecting a toxic salt solution into the amniotic fluid meant to protect my fragile body, to instead poison and scald me to death,” Melissa said. “I soaked in that toxic salt solution for five days as they tried time and time again to induce Ruth’s labor with me.”
But, she said, she held on to life.
“When I was finally expelled from the womb on that fifth day, my arrival into this world was not so much a birth, but an accident, a ‘live birth’ after a saline infusion abortion,” she added. “My medical records state: ‘a saline infusion for an abortion was done, but was unsuccessful.’”
Even after birth, she struggled to survive.
“My medical records reflect the doctors initially suspected I had a fatal heart defect because of the amount of fetal distress I presented with,” she said. “My grandmother demanded that I be left to die.”
Her grandmother’s request, she commented, wasn’t uncommon for babies like her who were often placed “in the utility closet to be left to die.”
Thankfully, a nurse rushed her to the NICU.
Abortion survivors exist, she stressed. Through her network, she has connected with 384 of them, ranging in age from infants to people in their 70s.
“We are an inconvenient truth to the conversation about abortion,” she said at another point. “There is something so disturbing . . . about the fact that I had the right to abortion, but I didn’t have the right to live. The great question is, when did my rights to bodily autonomy begin?”
But even as she strives to share her story, Melissa emphasized that the “most important stories” are “likely the ones that you’ll never hear” – those of the “little boys and girls who will never live outside of the womb.”
As a woman who had an abortion, Catherine Glenn Foster declared that “Abortion is violence. I’ve felt it.”
“I so wish that the abortion facility that I walked into when I was just 19 years old had been regulated by the basic community protections that this Congress seeks to destroy,” she said of the WHPA.
“I walked through the doors of the abortion facility because I thought I was out of options,” she began. After taking a pill, she remembered being sent “to a room where I laid down on a table and they began to perform an ultrasound.”
“There was a screen about two feet away from my face that clearly showed the image of my child,” she said, but “the screen was turned away.”
At the time “I was scared and young and alone and frightened and I had no idea what to do or how I could possibly go through with either” abortion or keeping her baby, she recalled. “I said, ‘At least let me see the image of my child so that I can – so I can see my baby and have some kind of further information.’”
But when she asked, “the tech said no, that it was against policy.”
“We know why,” Catherine concluded. “It’s because we change our minds when we see our ultrasounds. We change our minds when we see the image of our child on that screen.”
Now, she and Melissa hope their stories have the power to change minds too.