St. Thérèse Lecture shares message of mercy and love Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, May. 23, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
melissa ohden
Abortion survivor Melissa Ohden speaks as part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series at Holy Name Heights in Madison on May 16. Ohden, who was adopted after birth, is standing in front of a photo of her and her birth mother, center, along with one of her half sisters, whom she met later in life. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- “The solution to an unwanted child is not to get rid of them. The solution to a supposed unwanted child is to love them, to want them, to change ourselves, to change our society,” said abortion survivor Melissa Ohden.

Ohden spoke on May 16 at Holy Name Heights in Madison as part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Series.

Ohden is a speaker and author, sharing her story of mercy and love.

Her book entitled You Carried Me is an intimate look at her search for her story and birth parents along with her journey to healing and forgiveness.

Ohden founded The Abortion Survivors Network seeking to educate the public about failed abortions and survivors while providing emotional, mental, and spiritual support to abortion survivors.

She has appeared on news networks, testified before Congressional committees about pro-life legislation, and met with President Donald Trump.

Her talk focused on her journey and the importance of sharing and knowing the truth about abortion.

She hoped to share a message of “information and inspiration” and to cultivate compassion and empathy to everyone on all sides of the abortion debate.

“God’s providence is always clear — we’re living in a day and time where abortion has become a national conversation,” said Ohden.

Abortion survivor

“The story of my life could have been very short,” said Ohden, but “God had another plan for me.”

More than 40 years ago, in a procedure that usually lasts three days, resulting in a baby’s death to abortion, Ohden lived through five days of an abortion attempt.

Ohden said that her birth mother, a 19-year-old unmarried college student, was coerced into the abortion by her own mother, a nurse in the community who knew a local abortionist in Sioux City, Iowa.

“We live in a culture that actually calls lives like mine the dreaded complication of an abortion,” Ohden.

With the abortion unsuccessful, she was left to die in the hospital.

She credited nurses at the hospital for saving her life. Some of them later contacted her and said they couldn’t let her die as she “just kept gasping for breath.”

Despite her later knowing that her own birth grandmother wanted her to be left to die, Ohden said, “I know in my heart my grandmother was a greater victim in all of this than I ever will be . . . I still pray for the repose of her soul.”

Ohden said her birth mother was most likely 31 weeks along when the attempted abortion took place.

She cited statistics that along with some survivals, there are a significant amount of late-term abortions that take place every year.

Learning her story

Ohden was adopted by a family elsewhere in Iowa.

It wasn’t until she was 14 years old that she began to learn the story of her birth.

Some family circumstances, notably the pregnancy of her teenage older sister, led her adoptive parents to tell her the life-changing words of “your biological mother had an abortion during her pregnancy with you and you survived.”

Following struggles with alcohol abuse and an eating disorder in an attempt to deal with the pain, Ohden began to accept God’s plan for her to share her story and be a voice to stand up for the unborn.

“God saved me from myself time and time again,” she said and added “the greatest piece of my strength came from forgiving my biological parents . . . forgiveness is a deliberate action. It’s a choice we have to continue to make on a daily basis.”

Over the next decade of her life, she attempted to both find her medical records and find her biological parents.

In what she called “divine intervention,” when she acquired her medical records in 2007, the names of her biological parents had not been blacked out on the records.

She wrote her biological father, who was living in Sioux City, where she and her husband were living at the time. She sent him a letter saying if he wanted to communicate, or have a relationship with her, she was open to it.

He did not respond. Ohden later learned that her biological father died about six months after she sent the letter. Some of her biological father’s relatives, who do have a relationship with her, found the letter in his work office desk after he died.

Ohden believes that her biological father never knew she survived the abortion until he had gotten the letter.

During this time, she also gave birth to her first daughter, born in the same hospital Ohden’s biological mother underwent her attempted abortion.

“I am forever grateful, because the place where I had the worst memories of my life . . . has been redeemed and restored to a place of life,” she said.

A life of forgiving

Finding her biological mother took longer, but Ohden believes it was all part a God’s plan.

After communicating with her biological mother’s parents, she began to learn more of her own story.

Later, through more “divine intervention,” she established contact with her biological mother, who was living in the very city she and her family were living in at the time, Kansas City.

Three years ago, she met her biological mother in person, as well as her half sisters.

Ohden learned that for more than 30 years, her biological mother had thought she died as a result of the abortion and didn’t know she had been adopted.

Ohden said she has a relationship with her biological mother now, and they communicate almost every day.

“She really is my greatest support in life,” Ohden said.

She added that she keeps sharing her story because, “not only does an abortion end a human life, but when that life is able to be lived, great beauty can come from it.”

For more on Melissa Ohden, her story, and her ministry, go to

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