Abortion Survivor: ‘Without First the Right to Life, There Are No Other Rights’

By Melanie Arter | June 7, 2019 | 2:38pm EDT
Melissa Ohden, founder and director of the Abortion Survivors Network (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) – An abortion survivor testified before Congress Tuesday about how she was born alive during a botched saline abortion and left to die before a nurse saved her and rushed her to the hospital.

“I’m here today to give a face and a voice to women whose rights are not just being threatened, but have been under attack for the past 46 years in our country and are clearly being even more heavily threatened as abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, with no restriction, are being introduced and celebrated in states like New York, Illinois and now, Nevada,” Melissa Ohden, founder and director of the Abortion Survivors Network, said in her opening testimony during a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled, “Threats to Reproductive Rights in America.”

“Today, you’ve heard countless stories already about how abortion is a difficult, yet necessary decision; how every woman has a fundamental right to abortion. Every story is important. Every experience deserves to be heard. However, when we hear the stories about abortion, this narrative is woefully one-sided,” she said.

“Our culture has been inundated with messaging in which abortion controls the narrative. Yet, largely ignored in the abortion narrative that is woven so skillfully throughout our culture, behind even the words in the title of this hearing, ‘reproductive rights,’ are stories buried beneath the narrative of abortion that has been sewn since Roe v. Wade,” Ohden said.



She wondered if there was space in the abortion debate for stories like hers – “women who are alive today after surviving failed abortion procedures,” as well as those like her biological mother who was forced into an abortion.

“Do we ever create space for the stories of women who regret their abortions? The most important stories, though, are likely those that you’ll never hear,” Ohden said, “the stories of the little girls who will never live outside of the womb.”

“In all of this discussion about women’s rights, some lose sight of the fact that without the right to life, there are no other rights. This is the greatest human rights issue we are facing as a country,” she said.

Ohden spoke in detail about the circumstances surrounding her birth after a failed abortion.

In August of 1977, that’s when the attack on my human rights began. My biological mother, as a 19-year-old college student, had a saline infusion abortion forced upon her by her own mother - a prominent nurse in their community - with the help of her colleague, the local abortionist, Dr. Kelberg.

That abortion procedure involved injecting a toxic salt solution into the amniotic fluid surrounding me in the womb. It was meant to poison and scald me to death. I soaked in that toxic solution over a five-day period as they tried time and time again to induce my birth mother’s labor with me.

When I was finally expelled from the womb on that fifth day of the abortion procedure, my arrival into this world was not so much as a birth, but an accident, a “live birth” after a saline infusion abortion. My medical records actually state, “a saline infusion for an abortion was done, but was unsuccessful.” This record is available to you to review, along with some other records that talk about how a complication of my birth mother’s pregnancy was a saline infusion.

Despite the arguments being made that people like me don’t exist or that children aren’t left to die after failed abortions, I need you to listen to the words of a nurse who I’ve been connected with who was there that day.

I was initially “laid aside,” after my grandmother instructed the nurses to leave me to die, and arguments ensued about whether I would be provided medical care. In the words of Nurse Jan, who received me in the NICU that day, “a tall blond nurse,” courageously rushed me off to the NICU, shouting out, “she just kept gasping for breath, and so I couldn’t just leave her there to die!”

My medical records state that when I was delivered alive in that abortion procedure, I suffered from severe respiratory problems, jaundice, seizures. I weighed a little less than 3 pounds. I was 2 pounds, 14 ounces, which led a neonatologist to remark in my medical records that I was approximately 31 weeks gestation, as opposed to the 18-20 weeks that the abortionist had written on my medical records.


Ohden said, “It’s easy to talk about women’s reproductive rights until you recognize that without first the right to life, there are no other rights.”

“How do you reconcile my rights as a woman who survived a failed abortion with what’s being discussed here today? The abortion industry talks in abstract and gray when it comes to the science of when life begins and what abortion does, but the reality is much clearer. I’m alive today because someone else’s ‘reproductive right’ failed to end my life, as are the 287 abortion survivors I’ve connected with through my work in The Abortion Survivors Network, 184 of them are female,” she said.

She said, “There’s something wrong when someone’s right results in another person’s death. There’s something deeply disturbing about the reality in our world that I have a right to an abortion but I never had the simple right to live.”

Ohden called on the committee to look “behind the language” at stories like hers “that are hidden, that might seem inconvenient or rare and consider there’s more to this discussion” and more ways to protect the vulnerable and meet the needs of women and families “in a way that supports lives at all stages of development and in all circumstances, not ends it.”



MRC Store