Gosnell 'Horror' Story 'Opens Floodgates' for Abortion Survivors

How does hearing the horrific details of the clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, where babies who were born alive allegedly had their spinal cords “snipped,” affect those who have survived a “failed” abortion?

Not much has been known or mentioned, even within the pro-life community, about abortion survivors--individuals who survived “botched” abortions. According to one abortion survivor, however, the Gosnell trial details have caused the “floodgates” to open for those who were meant to be dead.

According to Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivor Network and survivor of a “failed” saline abortion in 1977, medical research, the increased power of ultrasound, and the painful experiences of women and men who have gone through abortion have all “made it very difficult for abortion advocates to deny the humanity of the unborn.”

In her work for National Right to Life, Ohden discusses how the lives of abortion survivors are a “living testament to the humanity of the unborn.” Abortion survivors like herself, says Ohden, are now popping up frequently in pro-life media.

One of Ohden’s goals through the Abortion Survivor Network is to determine the incidence of survivors.

“Certainly, the pro-life community knows that the number of abortions, including the babies’ ages, is not always accurately reported,” she said. “The difficulty in determining the incidence of survivors, therefore, is not surprising.”

Using international health data, Ohden estimates that, at the very least, 75 children survive abortions in the United States each year. Over a 40-year period since abortion was legalized, the total would be, minimally, approximately 3,000 abortion survivors in just the U.S. alone.

Ohden cautions, however, that her experience tells her that the number of abortion survivors is much greater. “Over the past 5 ½ years I have heard from or met other abortion survivors continuously,” she said. “I have now been in contact with over 127 other survivors, with the majority coming from here in the U.S.”

Ohden says that many abortion survivors “live their lives in fear of what the culture of death we live in says about what happened to us (it was simply a choice, we didn’t have any rights, we were not yet human).” She adds that survivors of abortion also believe that they are alone, with no one to turn to for understanding. The reality that one is alive merely because of a “failure” of a procedure that was meant to take one’s life can be a daunting notion.

Ohden hopes that awareness of her work will enable other abortion survivors to come forward. She believes that, just as research and medical progress have “changed the conversation about abortion and the humanity of the unborn,” the prevalence of abortion survivors has “the potential to further the cause of life in the face of a culture of death.”


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