Lived to tell: the astonishing story of an abortion survivor

She’s now sharing her story with the world — and seeking others who have also survived abortion.

From the Des Moines Register:

The defining moment of Melissa Ohden’s life arrived five days before she was born.

Her biological mother entered St. Luke’s Medical Center in Sioux City on Aug. 24, 1977, as a pregnant, 19-year-old college freshman.

She must have been scared. The teen from South Sioux City, Neb., was administered a saline infusion abortion – a salt injection designed to poison and burn the fetus as well as to induce labor.

Yet Ohden survived and eventually was born at 3:40 p.m. Aug. 29 with a weak cry, weighing in at just 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Her skin was “relatively pink” with some bruises.

It’s Ohden’s unlikely (she would say miraculous) survival more than 33 years ago that fuels her global anti-abortion activism today. In one speech and interview after another, Ohden recounts the details of her own brush with death in the womb, which left emotional scars but no tangible physical or mental disabilities.

Through her work, Ohden says she has become aware of only 13 other abortion survivors around the globe, including fellow anti-abortion activists Gianna Jessen, Claire Culwell and Brandy Lozier.

Medical records from St. Luke’s outline how Ohden “was delivered spontaneously in bed by a nurse.”

In the space on a form that asks for “complications of this pregnancy,” the entry reads dryly: “saline infusion.” (Instillation methods such as the saline infusion that Ohden survived now represent fewer than 1 percent of abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

“Legitimate?” the form also asks. “No.”

At one day old, the infant Ohden – still nameless at this point – was determined to be “doing well.”

“Active. Color good. Slight jaundice.”

Ohden’s mother initially reported herself as 18 weeks pregnant, but doctors later estimated the newborn’s gestational age to be closer to 31 weeks.

Ohden was placed in the care of the old Iowa Department of Social Services and transferred to University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City. Nurse Mary Schmelzer lovingly bestowed the infant with a temporary name: Katie Rose.

“I don’t have any children. That’s what I would’ve named them,” said Schmelzer, adding that Ohden is the only abortion survivor she’s come in contact with in 42 years of nursing.
When Ron and Linda Cross of rural Curlew drove to Iowa City to look at Katie Rose (Ohden) in 1977, her head was shaved from temple to temple where IVs had been inserted. She was still too weak to suck down liquids.

“When they put her in my arms, I just knew everything was going to be OK,” Linda Cross said.

Read the rest.

  • Regina Faighes

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful and inspiring story with us, Deacon Greg. I watched the video of Melissa’s moving interview and was especially touched when she said (I’m paraphrasing here) that “it’s one thing to talk about choice and exceptions but what happens when you are the choice or the exception? I pray that every woman who is contemplating getting an abortion, every nursing or medical student who is contemplating working at an abortion clinic, and every legislator who is in the position to enact either pro-life or so-called pro-choice legislation takes the time to “meet” Melissa in this video and in this article. They should look at the cute baby she was 33 years ago; and look at the beautiful, intelligent, and articulate lady she is today. And watch the video to the end, and meet sweet little Olivia, Melissa’s daughter who is alive today, because Melissa survived the attempt on her life. Many so-called pro-choice advocates claim they want to protect a woman’s right to control what happens to her own body. But Melissa, and by extension, Olivia are proof that abortion is not about what a woman does to her own body but to the precious child who is dwelling therein and to that child’s future children and descendants.

  • ron chandonia

    As the comments on the original site indicate, even a story as moving as this will not soften the stoney hearts of those who see abortion as essential to their own sexual freedom. We’re not talking about the jaundiced urbanites who insisted that the abortion poster in SoHo be destroyed. This is Iowa, America’s heartland, and the murderous spirit that nearly took this woman’s life is evidently deeply embedded even there.

  • Regina Faighes

    As my pastor often says: “nothing is impossible with God” so I am praying that this story “will soften the stoney hearts.” If Melissa could forgive the biological mother who tried to kill her, then anything is possible.

  • francesca

    Reading the above description of the “salt and saline injection designed to burn the fetus…” it occurs that we would never permit such cruelty to be inflicted upon an animal, how did we get to the point where we turn a blind eye to such cruelty inflicted upon a human being, by fellow human beings? Amazing that this child did survive it.


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