Melissa Ohden, abortion survivor, tells her story

Melissa Ohden, in a letter to Chairman Trent Franks and the House of Representatives Constitution Subcommittee Members:

“In August 1977, my biological mother, a 19-year-old college student, was forced to undergo a saline infusion abortion. My medical records from St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, indicate that she was believed to be approximately 20 weeks pregnant with me at that time. They state that “a saline infusion for an abortion was done, but was unsuccessful.” Those same records then proceed to later identify a complication of her pregnancy as “saline infusion.”

A saline infusion abortion involves injecting a toxic salt solution into the amniotic fluid surrounding the preborn child in the womb. The intent of that toxic salt solution is to slowly scald the child to death, from the outside in… This abortion procedure typically lasted about three days – 72 hours. The child soaked in that toxic salt solution until their life was effectively ended and then premature labor was induced with the intent of that deceased child being delivered.

In my own case, I didn’t soak in that toxic salt solution for just three days. My medical records indicate that I soaked in it for five. For five days, I soaked in that toxic salt solution while multiple attempts were made to induce my biological mother’s labor with me to expel my dead body. Finally, on the fifth day of the abortion procedure, her labor was successfully induced. I should have been delivered dead that day as a “successful” abortion, a deceased child. But by the grace of God, I was born alive.

I can’t even begin to imagine the horrible pain and suffering that I experienced during those five days of the abortion procedure and in the days and weeks that followed. Abortion doesn’t spare a child from suffering, it causes suffering.

I weighed a little less than three pounds (two pounds, 14 ounces). When I was delivered at St. Luke’s hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, in that final step of the abortion procedure, which indicated to the medical professionals that my birth mother was much further along in her pregnancy than she had realized and the abortionist failed to admit to. In fact, one of the first notations on my medical records states that I looked like I was about 31 weeks gestational age when I survived. Sadly, whether I was 31 weeks or 20 weeks, what happened to me was permitted by federal law.

The fight for my life was far from over after I was delivered in this failed abortion.

In 2013, I learned through contact with my biological mother’s family (who I am incredibly thankful to have in my life, along with members of my biological father’s family) that not only was this abortion forced upon her against her will, but also that it was my maternal grandmother, a nurse, who delivered me in this final step of the abortion procedure.

Unfortunately, I also learned that when my grandmother realized that the abortion had not succeeded in ending my life, she demanded that I be left to die.

I may never know how, exactly, two nurses who were on staff that day found out about me (one of whom has had their story passed down to my adoptive parents) or where they found me, but what I do know is that their willingness to fight for medical care to be provided to me saved my life.

I know where children like me were left to die at St. Luke’s hospital – a utility closet. In 2014, I met a nurse who assisted in a saline infusion abortion there in 1976, and delivered a living baby boy. After he was delivered alive, she followed her superior’s orders and placed him in the utility closet in a bucket of formaldehyde to be picked up later as medical waste after he died there, alone.

A bucket of formaldehyde in the utility closet was meant to be my fate after I wasn’t first scalded to death through the abortion.

Yet I am alive today because I was ultimately given the medical care that I so desperately needed and deserved.

I am thankful that the abortion meant to end my life actually occurred at a hospital, as the medical treatment that I needed for my severe respiratory and liver problems and seizures – the oxygen, blood transfusions and everything thereafter was located right there.

If my birth mother’s abortion would’ve occurred in an abortion clinic, I truly believe that I would not be alive today. The medical care would have been long in coming to me, if at all.

To say that I am grateful to be alive would be an understatement. No, we may never know if I made it all the way to that utility closet and the bucket of formaldehyde or I was simply laid aside, but the truth about the location of where I was left will never change the truth of the intent of why I was left. I was meant to be killed in the abortion and then when that didn’t succeed, I was left to die.

As a fellow American, as a fellow human being, I deserved the same right to life, the same equal protection under the law as each and every one of you. Yet we know that our great nation falls terribly short when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable of its citizens.

We live in a day and time where the science of human development, the power of ultrasound, and the sheer number of survivors like me (I know of 209 others just like me through my work as the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network although I am sure the actual number is much higher) clearly shows the truth about life. There should no longer be a question of when life begins. There should no longer be the question of which lives, if any, should be protected.”

“The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act” Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives 114th Congress, Second Session, September 23, 2016, 58-59

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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