An abortion survivor brought to Canada recently her story of not only how she survived the early attempt on her life, but her work since then with an organization dedicated to caring for both women and children.
Melissa Ohden tours the continent speaking on behalf of Feminists For Life, a non-sectarian, non-partisan, grassroots association founded in 1972 that seeks to continue the tradition of early American feminists who opposed abortion and were devoted to the ideals of justice, non-discrimination and non-violence. She was in Oakville, Ont. on Nov. 14 to speak at Halton Pro-Life’s Annual Respect Life Dinner Fundraiser, which also featured a performance by star fiddler Natalie McMaster.
It has been for only one-and-a-half years that Ohden has been telling her story, because of the impact her beginnings have had on her biological family. After years of searching for medical records of the abortion attempt on her, she found in 2007 that she was anywhere from 18 to 24 weeks old in her mother’s womb when the incident happened.
“When I was delivered, I was thought to be dead,” she said, adding that even after it was clear she would survive her premature birth, there were real fears she would suffer from any number of disabilities.
It wasn’t until she was 14 that she inadvertently learned of her difficult entry into the world, but was by then in the care of an adoptive family that loved and supported her. “My mother never told anyone … I can’t imagine the suffering my mother has gone through carrying that secret.”
Her biological father passed away in January 2008 and Ohden grieved the passing of a man who had to live taking a great secret to his grave. She maintains a good relationship with her grandfather, but has never met her grandmother, whose “grief is too great.”
Although she remains a “dirty little secret” among many in her biological family, Ohden said much good has come out of the tragic situation and her life, especially her involvement with Feminists for Life. She has found the organization to be a good fit, as it seeks to recall the work of early feminists who sought to outlaw abortion.
“I was struggling with being another piece of rhetoric. We’ve all had enough of that,” Ohden said, observing that modern, or second-wave, feminists claim abortion is a fundamental right for women and that without it, other rights are meaningless.
Feminists for Life concentrates its work on college campuses, where it presents abortion alternative information and stages annual pregnancy resource forums. Ten per cent of female college students become pregnant every year, noted Ohden.
“Where have all the pregnant students gone? You never hear about them,” she said, alluding to the fact that most head for abortion sites.
The work of Feminists for Life tries to create an environment in which women such as her biological mother can feel they have real choices and don’t have to make fateful decisions to end their children’s lives.
“I’m incredibly grateful to be alive … Each and every day is a blessing,” she said, adding that she now serves as a voice for the voiceless and for their mothers. If the abortion attempt on her had been successful, none of those good things would have happened, she said.
In a twist of irony, Ohden’s own daughter was born in the same hospital in which the abortion attempt was made on her. In that, the circle of her life was now closed and her daughter was the final piece of the puzzle.
“Because of my daughter, I’m more passionate than I’ve ever been before,” she said, observing that abortion is not just a one-time decision, but has a ripple effect throughout one’s life and on others.
In closing, Ohden issued a five-point outline of what people can do to advance the pro-life cause: refuse to choose between women and children; support pro-women, pro-men, pro-children legislation; say “no” to the status quo; help make every woman feel safe being pregnant; and support pro-life organizations.
The goal, said Ohden to a standing ovation, is to make sure women like her daughter don’t have to go through what she did.
In an interview before her talk, Ohden said she had also spoken recently at the University of Guelph, King’s College and Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in Feminists for Life’s first appearances in Canada. Overall, the response has been very positive.
The organization has established a YouTube page that includes a clip of Ohden’s testimony at: www.youtube.com/FeministsForLife. Its website is at: www.feministsforlife.org.
“We are just going to keep plugging away and doing the footwork that we do,” said Ohden.