Roger Marsh: Thank you for listening to Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh, and the program you're about to hear was recorded in January 2022 at the National March for Life Weekend in Washington, DC. This interview is intended for mature audiences, and listener discretion is advised.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Hello, and welcome to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors and co-host of Family Talk. We're here in Washington DC at the annual March for Life Weekend.
Our guest today was just 14 years old when she found out that she was the result of a failed saline abortion. Let me say that again. She was the result of a failed saline abortion. Her name? Melissa Ohden. She's an author, speaker, and founder of the Abortion Survivors Network. It focuses on educating the public about failed abortions, while providing emotional, mental, and spiritual support to the abortion survivors.
In her memoir, You Carried Me, she describes her decade-long search to find and forgive her biological parents. Her personal story of love and redemption cuts through all the debates surrounding a divisive issue to touch our common humanity. With a master's degree in social work, she has worked in the fields of substance abuse, mental health... I like that... domestic violence, child welfare, and more. Melissa is married, has a daughter. Melissa, great to have you on Family Talk. Thank you for joining us.
Melissa Ohden: Tim, thanks so much for having me. It is an exciting time to be in DC here with these students at the summit and really celebrating all that God is doing in our nation.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You know, there's a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. It's a little different, I think, this time around. I think probably a lot of it has... The pro-life movement, it's winning. There are good things happening. And the kids... I don't know if you all saw the sweatshirts and the T-shirts down there, "We're the pro-life generation," but they're here en masse. It's amazing to me.
Melissa Ohden: It's always exciting to come to the March for Life and see all of the people who are committed to life, and certainly, people who have been here year after year, longer than I've even been alive. But what's always the most exciting part is how old I feel when I'm with hundreds of thousands of people at the march and then at the summit like this because, yeah, I'll age myself. Most people are younger than me, at this point, and I love it.
Dr. Tim Clinton: It's so encouraging, you know that? A lot of people think today we're losing our kids but, boy, I'll tell you what. It gives you a lot of confidence in the next generations coming up through, and we need conservative, young leaders to step up into the moment. Protestors... You bump into any while you were here?
Melissa Ohden: Oh, I always do. Yesterday, at the march, we didn't see people outside the Supreme Court in the way that we usually do. Two years ago, when I was last here at the March for Life, I had my now 13-year-old daughter with me, and we were each carrying signs. Mine said, "Survived an abortion. Ask me about my rights as a woman." My oldest daughter... I have two. My oldest that was with me, she actually was holding a sign that said, "Alive because my mom survived." Well, as you can imagine, when you carry those signs, and you make sure you walk on the outside of the street, so you can engage with people...
Dr. Tim Clinton: You're going to get in the mix.
Melissa Ohden: Yes, so that time there were people near the Supreme Court, who had a lot to say to my daughter and I. We very graciously educated them about how abortion survivors exist and second generations of survivors then come, like my own daughter. But there was nobody this year, except I found them today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. They were down at the Supreme Court, and I will tell you, Tim. It was... It's terrible to say that it was sick.
I don't mean that in a demeaning way about the people that were there. They have dignity and value, just like you and me, but the parade, the caricature of it all. They were singing, dancing, celebrating, laying medallions down around the Supreme Court, just so derogatory, demeaning, and really disgusting. We prayed for them. I had a chance to speak today, and I talked about how the fact that, when we're there, it's somber, and we're praying for our nation and those we have lost and people like me who survived abortions, and men and women who need healing, but we're also there to witness to those very people who are making a spectacle of life.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. It's interesting. The fire that's in culture right now, it's hard to describe, but I'll tell you what. There is some, and we've got to have resolve in our hearts to stand up and into this moment. We've got to stand strong and emboldened. That's why we appreciate your voice.
Your story is unbelievable. Really, it is. Let's just go to you growing up, your childhood. What was it like? Can you take us back? And we'll just kind of migrate our way through your narrative.
Melissa Ohden: I thought I had a pretty normal life. I mean, don't we all, most of the time? Then, the older we get, we kind of realize, oh, maybe things aren't as normal as I thought they were. I grew up in the Midwest. I am adopted. I have an amazing family.
My mom and dad raised me with deep faith and a heart of mercy, and so I've known Jesus from my youngest age, and always knew I was adopted. I can't ever tell anyone I didn't know.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Did you? Okay.
Melissa Ohden: That was one of those things my parents did so well, and they raised me to know that my biological parents loved me enough to give me life and the gift of my family. I know that, like so many parents, that's all they wanted me to know growing up.
I led a really simple life. If you asked my parents, they would say they knew that there was so much that I didn't have growing up, in terms of financially, like other people. My parents were just hard-working people, and what they had, though, was love. That's all I ever needed was to be loved. That's what they gave me, and so that's what I knew growing up, that I was deeply, deeply loved, that I had great faith and that was the foundation of my family. All of a sudden, the foundation was shook to its core when I was a teenager. That's why it's so important that I'm here with students like this, because my heart just goes out to them.
Dr. Tim Clinton: I was up on your website, and I read this statement, "One decision, one simple moment, can have a detrimental impact on so many people, living and dead, born and yet to be conceived." Let's go to that moment when you found out something about your life in your teenage years.
Melissa Ohden: Yeah, and that very statement is really what the Lord impressed upon my heart, even years later, is that every decision we make has an impact, not just on our life, but on other people's lives, and ultimately for eternity. We live in this culture that wants to say, "My body, my choice. I can do what I want. It's none of your business. Nothing affects you," but we know the truth. It does.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah, it does.
Melissa Ohden: It does. That's what I learned when I was 14 years old. My older sister, as a high school student, faced an unplanned pregnancy and, like so many women in that position, she was scared and had anxieties and wasn't sure what decision she was going to make about that pregnancy. When our parents found that out, they decided to break their silence, and they told her my survival story, hoping that she would understand what kind of a decision she was actually really considering in her life.
That's ultimately how I found out that I survived a failed abortion. She was told, and like any good teenage sister, she didn't keep it a secret from me. She didn't tell me what had happened to me, but she did say something that had never been said in our house before. It sounds terrible on face value, I'll be really honest, but I think people who have sisters or have parented teenage girls will understand what happened at our house.
During an argument one night, not long after she found out my story, she yelled, "You know, Melissa, at least my biological parents wanted me." I was thinking, whoa, wait a minute. We're both adopted. My sister's adopted. I'm adopted, and then we have a younger brother, who was born to our parents after they were infertile for so long, and so I couldn't understand. Why do you feel like you're more wanted than me? My mom and dad raised us on equal footing to believe we're equally loved, equally wanted.
That night, when I went to say something back to her, the look on her face just really stopped me dead in my tracks. That's when she realized she had let it slip before our parents could do that. That's how it all began, Tim, is at the age of 14, on a cold October night, I sat my mom down late that night, asked her to explain to me why my sister would say something like that. That's how my world came crashing down.
Dr. Tim Clinton: I can't imagine what was going through the heart and mind of a 14-year-old girl, the chaos, questions.
Melissa Ohden: Yeah, it still makes me emotional. People would think, 30 years later, that somehow it doesn't affect me, but it does. People will say, "Melissa, you've told your story probably tens of thousands of times, and you're still emotional." I am, because I wouldn't wish that moment on my worst enemy.
I knew, in that moment of time, that God spared my life, and I knew He had a purpose and a plan for me. I feel it every single day. The minute my feet hit the floor, I know that God had a purpose and a plan for me, but in that moment, all I could feel was incredible pain. I was ashamed and embarrassed to have survived an abortion, because I had never heard of anybody like me, and we live in a culture that says that people like me don't exist, and if you do, there's maybe like one of you, and hey, by the way, it doesn't really matter, because it's a woman's choice, and it's her right.
I grappled with that shame and that embarrassment and the guilt for surviving, when I knew tens of millions of children hadn't been as fortunate as I was. I struggled with anger and resentment. I mean, you name it, and I probably felt it. For years, I told myself I would never tell people who I was, and I would never tell people how much I hated myself. Even my parents didn't know.
Dr. Tim Clinton: In the middle of those years, you're on your search for identity anyway. I mean, who am I? How do I fit in? Those are just normal questions of teenage years, but throw that in the middle of it? What it did is it put a drive down inside of you to go on a search, and search you did.
Melissa Ohden: Yeah, and I had to search for God in the midst of that. Even though I was raised with great faith, I had to wrestle, just like we read about in the Bible. We know how many people have wrestled with God. I had to wrestle with God and who He made me to be.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah.
Melissa Ohden: I love that, in the midst of wrestling with God, we always find out not only who we are, but we find out more about Him. That ultimately led me on that search to find my biological parents. After I sinned and struggled and healed and was able to forgive my biological parents for the first time, by the grace of God. Yeah, I went out on this journey to find them. It took me over 10 years to find them and to obtain my medical records. I think what I love the most in that is that I learned to surrender to God's will. We all think we do it. We all think we trust in His timing, and then God gives us this season where we really... That's all we have is Him, and I'm grateful.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Your biological mother, tell us about her.
Melissa Ohden: My birth mother really does fit most statistics, when it comes to abortion. My birth mother was 19. She was a college student. She wasn't married to my birth father, but now I know that they were actually engaged when they found themselves facing that unplanned pregnancy with me. I think the part that makes a lot of people uncomfortable is that she fits the statistic when it comes to being coerced and forced into an abortion.
My adoptive parents had been told that my birth mother chose to have that abortion that was meant to end my life, but we now know that it was her family that forced her into the abortion. When I say forced, I mean forced. There was no getting away from them. There was no other choice to be had.
My birth mother's mother, so my maternal grandmother, was a prominent nurse in their community and worked with the local abortionist on a regular basis. She worked in the hospital where the abortion took place. That's how they were able to force it. They forced my birth mother into that hospital, believing nobody would ever find out that it wasn't her choice. Over a five-day period, my birth mother had to undergo this horrific saline infusion abortion that endangered her life and should have ended mine.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You met her. I think it was in 2016. What was that moment like?
Melissa Ohden: Oh, hard for me to talk about sometimes. My birth mother's name is Ruth. It was a long journey to get to her. Here I found out at 14 that I had survived this failed abortion and grapple with all the emotions and then go looking for her and have roadblocks to finding her, and continue to just trust that if God intended for me to know her or find her, it would happen someday.
Then, fast forward to 2013, and finding out there were more secrets about my survival. That she spent over 30 years of her life believing that I had died that day at the hospital. She was told the abortion had been successful. She didn't know if I was a little boy or a little girl. She just knew that she lived with incredible regret. I ultimately made it to the NICU at that hospital after demands were made to leave me to die.
When we talk about legislation in our country, I know we live in a country that wants to pretend like what happened to me doesn't happen, but I can tell you, Tim, that this is my reality and the reality of people I serve around the world. Yes, there were demands made to leave me to die. I now know my grandmother was the one behind it all, and at least one brave nurse stood up to her that day and rushed me off to the NICU-
Dr. Tim Clinton: You're kidding.
Melissa Ohden: Believing that they could sustain my life.
Dr. Tim Clinton: If you don't mind me asking, I mean, what happened? How did this get botched?
Melissa Ohden: My medical records, and I am one of the few abortion survivors who has medical records. My medical records indicate my abortionist thought that I was about 18 to 20 weeks gestationally when the abortion was performed.
Dr. Tim Clinton: 18 to 20 weeks, wow.
Melissa Ohden: But the fact that I was able to live, and I weighed almost three pounds, I was two pounds 14 ounces.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Because, yeah, 21 weeks is usually the marker, right?
Melissa Ohden: Right. So, I was probably 31 weeks, and that's ultimately how I survived, but I can tell you that abortionists botch things up every single day. They didn't do an adequate exam to find out how far along my birth mother was and what type of procedure they should be performing. They do that still today.
I witness babies being born after failed and botched abortions daily in our country, and it happens in many different ways: abortion pill reversals that are successful, chemical abortions where women take both pills and babies are still born alive, D&Cs, dismemberment abortions. You name it, and I see it.
We don't always know how it's botched, except that God is always in the midst of all the details, and I'm forever grateful. I was poisoned and scalded over a five-day period in that abortion procedure. It usually lasted about three days. If the child was fortunate enough, that's what they say, then their life was ended within the first 24 to 48 hours. Then they would induce labor with that child then being expelled from the womb. That is the epitome of the born-alive infant that most people think about in our society, and that's what I endured, so soaked in it, was being poisoned, labor induced, delivered alive, demands made to leave me to die, ultimately rushed off to the NICU by a brave nurse who stood up to my grandmother. You know what? You know how I know all those things? Because God brought people into my life, who were there that day, the medical professionals who intervened to save my life, and then brought my birth mother into my life.
In 2016, we met face-to-face for the first time, like you were asking about, and we had communicated for about three years before that. We have been very deliberate in the love that we have for one another and walking out one another's pain and trauma. We really spent those three years building trust and love with each other. We met face-to-face for the first time, and I love her so much, and I know how much she loves me. Honestly, Tim, if there's one thing about my life I could change, it's the amount that she suffered, because she suffered so much in those 30 years thinking that the abortion...
Dr. Tim Clinton: Carried it, carried it, carried it.
Melissa Ohden: Yeah. Thinking that it was all her fault, and people made her feel that way. "It was your abortion. You chose this. We didn't do this to you." Gaslighting, time and time again, and then keeping my survival a secret, the one thing that could bring her healing. That's what we walked out with one another. Now I can tell you that Ruth is such a huge part of my life.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Is she?
Melissa Ohden: If you asked our kids, they would tell you all about their Grandma Ruth. We get together as often as we can.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Do you?
Melissa Ohden: The reason why we met in 2016 is because we live in the same city. I kept that a secret, even when my first book came out, because I wanted to protect her identity, but that's why her family reached out to me in 2013, because I had shared publicly that we were moving to Kansas City, and that's where she has lived for decades.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Wow. What an amazing story. All of that gave birth to a passion, a new passion of yours, and that's the Abortion Survivors Network. Talk to us about what God's doing in and through that.
Melissa Ohden: Babies survive abortions. That's exactly what my signs and the signs of fellow abortion survivors who are with me at the march said. It raises a few eyebrows, as you can imagine. People kind of read the sign and go, "Huh? What does that mean?" It means what you think it means. Babies survive abortions every day. I'm not the only one.
God has called me to be bold, and so I started speaking publicly around 2007-2008. Since that time, I think, like most people, when you have a pretty unique story, when you go out and you start sharing it, you find other people who have the same story. Over the years, I would serve them the best that I could, refer them to therapists who could help serve them, connect them with fellow abortion survivors, because we're born into rejection.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You can think of the mental health issues, all the challenges.
Melissa Ohden: Oh, gosh. Yes.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Are you getting a lot of people coming into the network?
Melissa Ohden: We are, and so that's been this big transition. We started with those basics of finding them, serving them in the most basic ways that we could, and all the while, Tim, I would look around at the pro-life movement and go, "Wow, somebody should really do something about this. Why, somebody should write a healing curriculum. Somebody should start a retreat." Then, after so many years, I went, "Oh, that's me." It was always me. That's where we've landed.
We're now a nonprofit at the Abortion Survivors Network. We're the only organization worldwide that serves abortion survivors and families. At this point, we've connected with 417 abortion survivors, two new ones yesterday alone.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Really?
Our survivors in our network range from infants right now to people in their 90s.
Dr. Tim Clinton: This is just amazing to me.
Melissa Ohden: Isn't it?
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah, it really is.
Melissa Ohden: I wish I didn't have to do what I do, but I love what I do.
Dr. Tim Clinton: We celebrate that in you. That is just so encouraging. If people want to learn more about the network, where could they go?
Melissa Ohden: People can go to abortionsurvivors.org. You can find us on social media and you'll come face-to-face with other abortion survivors, like me. We are healing them with our curriculum and our groups and our retreats. We're empowering them with skill development, speakers' training, giving them opportunities to speak, and we are amplifying survivors' voices in a world that wants to say that we don't exist. I think the most exciting part, for me, is we're also serving young abortion survivors and their families, to heal them in ways that families like mine never had anybody to serve them before.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You know, I'll tell you what. We are so moved by your story, and I know that it's impacted a lot of people listening today. If there's a young woman, maybe some parents out there who've turned the volume up, because there's something going on in their home, what are you saying to them today?
Melissa Ohden: If you've been impacted by an abortion, or you know someone who has, there is always healing. There is always hope. There are people around your community, who want to help you. You don't have to suffer in silence.
If you've experienced a failed abortion, or you're an abortion survivor, you're not alone in this. You have a whole community of abortion survivors, who are getting together regularly and finding healing together in community. You are loved. You are worthy. None of those circumstances change based on what the world out there has to say about abortion.
Now is the time for everybody to get involved. People can look at me and say, "Oh, Melissa, you were given this purpose." Well, you know what? If you're alive, you have a purpose, too, and so I want everybody to get involved and not leave it up to anybody else. God needs each and every one of us.
Dr. Tim Clinton: He does. Melissa, it's been a real joy to have you here on Family Talk. I know, on behalf of Dr. Dobson and his wife, Shirley, who, by the way, are strong advocates for life, and the entire team, we salute you and pray God's continued blessing. May He expand the reach and influence of your great work and ministry. Thank you for joining us.
Melissa Ohden: Thank you, Tim, and thank you to Dr. Dobson and your whole team for all you do.
Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. That was Dr. Tim Clinton's unflinching, honest, and authentic interview with abortion survivor, Melissa Ohden. I'm Roger Marsh, and Melissa's story is such an incredible testimony of God's sovereignty and His redemptive love, it is absolutely astounding that, by God's grace, babies sometimes survive abortions. If you'd like to learn more about Melissa and her organization, The Abortion Survivors Network, visit drjamesdobson.org/familytalk. You'll find a link there to Melissa's autobiography, as well. That's drjamesdobson.org/familytalk. While you're online, jump over to Facebook and join the conversation on the Dr. James Dobson Family Talk page. You'll be able to interact with our team here at the JDFI, as we read every comment and direct message, also known as DMs. You'll also be communicating with other likeminded followers. You'll find encouragement, links to daily broadcasts, brand new videos, and more. Just go to facebook.com and search for Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
Finally, we realize that today's conversation might have been a little bit emotional or even triggering for you. Abortion is a very sensitive topic. Here at the JDFI, we are aware of that. If you have some emotions or memories that you think you might want to address with the help of a mental health professional, remember, you can find a trusted member of the American Association of Christian Counselors near you when you visit connect.aacc.net; that's the word connect.aacc.net to find a directory of trusted Christian mental health professionals near you.
Well, with that, we've reached the end of our time for today here on this edition of Family Talk. Thanks for making us a part of your daily routine. We know that you have lots of choices for Christian content and programs, and we appreciate that you've spent your time with us today. Please listen again next time. Until then, may God continue to richly bless and direct you and your family. Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Hi, everyone. Dr. Tim Clinton here for Family Talk. Are you on the go without much time to log in to all your social media pages? Twitter's a great way for staying informed on the things that matter most to you with just a quick look on your phone. Follow Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk, receive great tips, resources, information, inspiration that's important to you in short, simple tweets. Again, that 'Dr. James Dobson FT' on Twitter.