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An abortion survivor – Melissa Ohden

Melissa Ohden should have been born dead after her biological mother had an abortion, yet she was born alive. She shared her life story with V4NA in a recent interview.

A cheerful, Christian woman who wants to help everyone – this is Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor. Melissa was born in 1977. Her mother had an abortion with saline  injected into the uterus. Melissa should have been born dead, but she was born alive, which she believes was a real miracle.

"People don't suspect that it's really a thing," Melissa said, adding that many at first simply just believe that she herself had an abortion procedure. However, when they realise that she is the baby who survived a failed abortion attempt, the look on their faces suggests that they are deeply shocked, she added.

Melissa's goal is to raise general awareness and she wants people to hear about abortion survivors because there are quite many of them, more than one would think.

Melissa always knew that she was adopted but she did not know the story of her adoption. She only learnt about the circumstances by accident during a dispute with her sibling in her adoptive family. It was painful to face reality at the age of fourteen, she recalled.

She felt lonely for a long time, mainly because at the time, people heard very little about others who were also abortion survivors. Learning about the circumstances of her birth had a profound impact on her daily life. She developed negative coping skills, like eating disorder and alcohol abuse, to numb her feelings and thoughts. With time, however, she realised that these choices only made her life more difficult.

The first healing step she took was forgiving her biological parents, Melissa said. A few years ago, she even managed to get in touch with her biological mother, Ruth, who has become an important part of Melissa's life. Melissa's story is full of incredible details, like the odd discovery that she and her mother happen to live in the same city, something neither of them knew. "The whole story is pretty wild," Melissa said.

Melissa described her relationship with her mother as the most horrific, yet the most beautiful story. Her biological mother was 19-year-old college student when she got pregnant, and her biological parents intended to keep her.  Her maternal grandparents, however, did not allow Ruth to keep the baby and gave the young woman no other option than to terminate her pregnancy. In Melissa's view, it is still quite common for some to make choices about others' fate and coerce them into an abortion, which is why she views both herself and her biological mother as victims of abortion.

Concerning the issue that several countries allow the termination of pregnancy up to the moment of birth, for any reason, Melissa said that many people believe that late-term abortion is rare and only performed in cases when either the mother's, or the child's life is in danger. She also pointed out, however, that none of the victims she knows would have been aborted for this reason. Statistics also show that, more often than not, late-term abortions happen because both the women and their doctors believe that the mothers are in the early stages of pregnancy. This, however, is often not the case. For example, doctors thought that Melissa was 18 to 20 weeks old, when in fact she was already in the 31st week at the time of her mom's failed abortion.

Continuing with her story, Melissa also spoke of a friend of hers, an abortion survivor, whose biological mother was to undergo what's called a vacuum aspiration abortion. Doctors, however, were unable to complete the procedure because the head of the foetus was too big and would not fit through the suction tube.

Although disabilities or health problems are not uncommon among abortion survivors, Melissa Ohden is healthy. She used to believe that - apart from her - there are no other healthy abortion survivors. This is something that has completely changed, Melissa told V4NA, adding that it turns out that a growing number of people, all abortion survivors, have no severe disabilities, even though health issues such as immune system weakness or chronic fatigue are more common among them. This, however, is mostly attributable to the amount of stress their bodies were exposed to in the womb and during abortion, doctors say.

Melissa Ohden is a faithful Christian, which comes as little surprise considering her life story. "Finding out my story deepened my faith," she said, adding that when she looks upon her life she finds no other reason why she is alive than God, adding that all the miracles in her life are no coincidence.

With regard to abortion, the question always arises as to when a foetus is considered a human being and when the often mentioned human rights begin to apply. Melissa said science tells us when life begins, but people say "yeah, well, let's not talk about that."

"It's so interesting that the people who want to say that life doesn't begin until a certain point seem to forget that they are included in that," she said. "I have never met anybody who said 'yeah, Melissa, I would have gladly switched places with you.'"

As an abortion survivor, Melissa wants to help others like her, so she set up the Abortion Survivors Network, whose purpose is to provide a platform where survivors can connect and know that they are not alone. The therapeutical conversations taking place help all those affected with the healing process, something they deserve. It also helps them to find their own voices.

According to Ms Ohden, it would be important to live in a culture where people acknowledge the existence of abortion survivors and listen to wat they say. She thinks society's current approach is rooted in the fact that people are being constantly told that abortion is merely a choice. She, on the other hand, has her own personal experiences on the extent of the devastation that it can cause. According to her, abortion not only ends a life (although, there appear to be exceptions, she notes), but it also changes people's lives forever. Therefore, the message she wants to convey to women who think about ending their pregnancy is that "they must know that there are some other choices," and that abortion is not a solution.

Regarding the issue that babies with, for example, Down syndrome are often aborted, Melissa said that in case of anyone with any supposed disability, we are subjectively deciding who should live and who should die. Doctors frequently attempt to persuade mothers to undergo abortion if they find out that the child suffers from some type a disease.

She said abortion was cloaked in compassion on a regular basis, especially in case of children with any kind of genetic disorder. People believe it is somehow more compassionate to end these fetuses' life in the womb than to give them life.

Melissa Ohden called it a lifelong process to get through such an experience. She said that, although years ago she did not want to be that person, today she gladly takes the role of a self-professed survivor of a failed abortion attempt, and not feel ashamed about it.

Melissa stressed that discussing her life story publicly also helped her healing process. She authored a book titled You Carried Me about her story and relationship with her biological mother. She told V4NA that her new book, which is expected to be published next year, will feature 10 to 12 abortion survivors who present their stories.

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