Open Book: how a unique pro-life ministry got started

A recent interview for my blog Leaven for the Loaf (reblogged here on April 12) put me back in touch via email with Melissa Ohden, a woman who survived an attempted saline abortion some years ago. Our interview reminded me of her moving memoir You Carried Me (2018: Plough Publishing House), which I’ll be re-reading soon. She was adopted as an infant into a loving family. As an adult, she met her birth mother and learned the circumstances of the attempted abortion that was meant to claim her life. She writes without sensationalism, which makes her story more memorable. Ohden has established The Abortion Survivors Network, which has brought together a startling number of people who survived attempts to abort them. Beyond peer support and sharing stories, the Network serves as a resource for policymakers striving to ensure that born-alive abortion survivors are properly cared for. A remarkable woman, a remarkable ministry.

A book I chose for Lenten reading will follow me into the Easter season, as I’m reading it slowly and taking time to reflect on each section. I have Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ (published c. 1954) in an old hardback edition, picked up can’t-remember-where quite awhile ago. This is the first time I’m giving it more than cursory attention. It’s become valued reading during my times of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I needn’t be in a church to read it, of course. Sheen’s devotion and reverence for God are leavened by a down-to-earth gift for touching busy hearts.

I’ve reached the final pages of a thoroughly secular work of history that I’ve been chewing on for awhile: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005, Simon and Schuster). A part of the basis for the Spielberg film Lincoln, the book is not so much a biography of Abraham Lincoln as it is an account of a network of his relationships that had a profound bearing on the Civil War and thus American history. Goodwin writes with respect without resorting to hagiography. I’m fascinated to read about how the paths of a handful of intensely ambitious yet patriotic men happened to cross. Those paths eventually led to Lincoln’s Cabinet during the Civil War, where the rich broth of personalities required to preserve the Union kept the President busy.

#OpenBook is a monthly blog linkup by Carolyn Astfalk, featuring a roundup of bloggers and the books they’re exploring.

“More than a choice” – Melissa Ohden on the growth of Abortion Survivors Network

Reblogged from Leaven for the Loaf.

The first time I wrote about Melissa Ohden, back in 2016, I included a video of her testimony to Congress about surviving the attempted abortion that was meant to kill her. After informing members of Congress about the number of documented abortions occurring annually, she went on to say “I was meant to be one of them. I should have been just another statistic.”

Melissa’s advocacy for abortion survivors had started years before. In 2012, she founded the Abortion Survivors Network. The Network is thriving, having brought together hundreds of people who have survived attempts to abort them. They are “more than a choice,” as ASN’s tagline proclaims.

Melissa was kind enough to reply recently when I asked her for an update on her work. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team at The Abortion Survivors Network, five of whom are also abortion survivors. We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

What’s ahead for ASN, and how you can help

What’s ahead for ASN? “We’re currently growing so rapidly that in the next five years, I foresee that we’ll be offering multiple retreats a year, including for families. We’re starting right now to research and implement the best practices of healing and community support for survivors who have also had abortions, themselves, and what care is most supportive to children and teenagers. Contributing what we learn to journals and the pro-life healing community is all part of what we’ll continue to do.”

In New Hampshire, efforts have thus far fallen short to pass “born-alive” legislation to protect children surviving attempted abortion. Other states have seen more success. What has worked, where born-alive laws are enacted? “We’ve continued to see that sharing the stories of survivors, coupled with data about the incidence of born alive survivors is impactful. Just because there are Abortion survivors doesn’t mean born alive legislation isn’t needed (policymakers and the abortion industry attempt to paint that picture).”

What can a person do to support ASN and the survivors it represents? “The average person can educate themselves about born alive survivors (our websites are great resources), learn our stories, and educate policymakers and people around them about this. Most people really have no idea this happens and the frequency to which it does.”

I can add one more thing: read and share Melissa’s book, You Carried Me: a Daughter’s Memoir (2018: Plough Publishing House). She tells her story with compassion and grace.

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