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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Abortion Survivors Tell Their Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Abortion Survivors Tell Their Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Our guests share their dramatic stories of surviving the attempts to end their lives while in their mother's womb, providing a stark and undeniable counter argument to pro-abortionists who argue that a fetus is not a living human being. (Part 2 of 2)



Melissa Ohden: “She just kept gasping for breath, and so I couldn’t just leave her there to die.” Those were the words of the nurse who rushed me off to the NICU that day, after I was left for a period of time, because they did demand that I be left in that hospital room to die. But by the grace of God, a nurse was willing to put her job on the line that day, rushed me off to the NICU. My life should never have been left to the luck of the draw who was working that day, right? God knew.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Mmm. Well, that is Melissa Ohden, thanking God for her life. She was left to die after an abortion. And Melissa’s here on Focus on the Family once again, also joined by Claire Culwell, who was with us last time. Claire – also an abortion survivor. And they have incredible stories to tell. And we are so grateful that they’re here today, as we lift up the value of all human life. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, when I hear that clip from the recording last time, I want to scream, “Enough is enough!” I mean, that is what comes to my mind. This has got to stop. It’s the taking of innocent human life. And I would just hope our culture and our politicians would better understand what’s happening here. This is not about protecting a woman’s right to choose. This is about protecting life. And we’re gonna continue that discussion today. If you missed last time, oh, the talk with Claire and Melissa was so good. I hope you’ll go to the website, download it, contact us.

John: Get the CD. Get the app, yeah.

Jim: We’ll get it to you. You know, a lot of people today are saying, “What’s a CD, John?”


Jim: I mean, you go, and you get the download. That’s what you do. And I hope you can do that, because it’s worth being informed about what happens. And these two women have survived abortions. And they speak with clarity because of their experience. Last time, Claire talked about meeting her birth mom and the healing that occurred between them because Claire sought her out. And that was an amazing part of the story. And we’re gonna continue today, talking to both Melissa and Claire about their passion for life.

John: Yeah, and as Jim said, hit the website. Get the CD, the download. Get our app so you can listen on the go. It’s all there at And Claire Culwell has a family. She’s got four kids, and she talks at congressional hearings or addresses state legislators. She has, as we’ve said, a powerful story. Melissa is the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network and has written the book, You Carried Me, which tells her complete story. And she also speaks and has presented testimony before the U.S. Congress, and is married and has two children.


Jim: Well, Melissa and Claire, welcome back.

Claire Culwell: Thank you.

Melissa: Thank you.

Jim: Let’s hit that, Melissa. I mean, you are speaking often in your role, and Claire, I know you do as well. Melissa, let’s go after this pro-choice terminology. I mean, because Christians, I think sometimes we’re just not equipped to have a verbal battle with people. We kind of pull back, and we want to love people. But let’s get into it a little bit. When you confront somebody who is a pro-choicer, it’s such a positive thought – right? To be pro-choice about anything. You want people to have a choice about stuff. But this is life and death. What do you say to the pro-choice contradiction?

Melissa: Well, and it depends on the setting, right? You know, to be perfectly honest, I always like to remind people – if you actually sit down with someone who identifies as being pro-choice, and you say, “What does that mean to you?” Right? “Tell me what pro-choice means to you.” What you’ll usually find is that they’re actually pro-life, but with exceptions – right? Rape, incest, life of the mother, um, fetal anomaly in the child. So most people have that pro-life tendency. I think what we’re seeing, of course, in our culture is that there are people who are pro-abortion. They’re not pro-choice. They don’t want this to be safe, legal and rare, right? Why would we be introducing legislation through the third trimester if people weren’t pushing abortion for being abortion?

Jim: Melissa, express for us this contradiction – when women are going after you know, the pro-choice perspective, the pro-abortion perspective, do they not know that probably more than half – because of gender selection, more than half of the abortions in this country are aimed at women? I mean, these are girls in the womb that are being annihilated, right?

Melissa: And what about the rights of women like our biological mothers, who faced coercion and force in their abortions? You know, we saw research coming out even again – I saw some last week where it identified 48 percent of women reported being coerced into their abortion. If we’re gonna talk…

Jim: So almost half?

Melissa: Yeah, if we’re gonna talk about women’s rights, then let’s have an honest discussion about what women are experiencing. Why is this so difficult for some people to talk about?

Jim: It’s so true. You know, when it comes to particularly late term abortion, um, I think it was some data sets that I saw – 79 percent of all Americans did not support late-term abortion, meaning third trimester. And that 66 percent of people who support abortion did not support late-term abortion. That’s breathtaking. I mean, that’s the contradiction, that most people on the left, the Democrats, do not support abortion in the third trimester. Isn’t that stunning?

Claire: It is. I mean, you can look at science and medical technology, and it shows us that that is a baby, and that is a baby that feels pain, and the procedure is gruesome. And so, yeah, we are at a time where even people that claim to be pro-choice are not in agreement with this. They’re outraged over this. And just to speak even on the women’s rights, we’re both mothers to little girls. And so we would even ask those people, “What were our little girls’ rights, who wouldn’t be here, if those abortions had taken our life?”

Jim: Yeah. And so we’ve set the tone, I hope, for today. Melissa, I want to turn to your story again. Your birth mom was 19 years old and was forced to have this abortion attempt at least. Describe what took place, and give us the beginning of that story.

Melissa: Yeah, my birth mother was 19. And most people who know my story know that really this has been a long journey – right? For God to unfold the story of my life. But we now know that it was her mother – very similar to what Claire’s mother experienced, her birth mother. It was my maternal grandmother, who was a prominent nurse, who had a good working relationship with a local abortionist, who forced the abortion upon my birth mother, believing nobody would find out that it wasn’t her choice. And you know, most certainly nobody would ever find out from me. That type of procedure, the saline infusion abortion, involved removing some amniotic fluid, and then they would inject this toxic salt solution into the amniotic fluid surrounding the pre-born child in the womb. The intent of that toxic salt solution was to poison and scald the child to death.

Jim: Burn the baby to death in the womb, basically.

Melissa: Basically. If the child was fortunate enough, their life would be ended, usually within the first 24 hours, and then over the next 48 hours, premature labor was induced with the intent of that deceased child then being expelled from the womb. Through my medical records, we actually know that I soaked in that toxic salt solution for actually five days. They kept trying, time and time again, over those five days to induce her labor. And, you know, I’m a little stubborn. I joke about that, right? It’s a gift from God.

Jim: Even then.


Melissa: Even then, He knew me, right?

Jim: Yes.

Melissa: But of course, all kidding aside, the longer I soaked in that toxic salt solution, the greater the likelihood should have been that I was delivered as a successful abortion.

Jim: That is – I mean, and I’m just sitting here looking at you. That’s unbelievable.

Melissa: And how many stories like this, though, Jim, don’t we ever hear? I mean, not just because most children will have their lives ended by abortion. But I can tell you – and I get so emotional about this – I can tell you of hundreds upon hundreds of stories, personally, of other survivors, who will never share their story publicly, because of the shame that we experience…

Jim: Aww.

Melissa: …of the secrecy. A lot of survivors are raised by their biological parents. And so, there is this additional level of secrecy that must be maintained within that family unit – right? To…

Jim: Oh, my.

Melissa: …to keep that story. And so, especially now, with all of this legislation happening, I can tell you that the stories of survivors burden me every single day.

Jim: Well, I want to say thank you for having the courage to do it because this gives voice to all of them, even if they can’t find that courage for understandable reasons, because the pain being so deep. You’re healing their souls every day. And thank you for – both of you – being willing to stand up and talk about this, because it’s so important. It is what’s going to change the minds of the nation, and I think we’re in the process of seeing the nation change on this issue of abortion. Melissa, your mom did not know that you survived, correct?

Melissa: Correct. Yes. You know, God’s funny like that. He wrote, like, so many different storylines of abortion into my one life.

Jim: So she left assuming it was over and done?

Melissa: Correct. Yeah, she was told that day – right? “It was a monster. It’s hideous. Don’t look at it.” She didn’t know if it was a little boy or a little girl who had been aborted. What, of course, now we know is that they didn’t want her to look, because she would have seen that I was alive.

Jim: Her mother’s heart would have connected with you?

Melissa: Yes. And the secret would have had to come out, right? I was at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, for about 21 days before I was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals, and part of that was, of course, because I could receive greater medical care, but we also know part of that was to make my adoption placement possible without her knowing.

Jim: Yeah. Well, like yesterday, we played a clip from Claire’s mom, Tonya, we have your birth mom, Ruth, and let’s hear what she had to say.

Ruth: My twin sister called me, and I believe it was a Sunday afternoon. And she’s like, “The child that you and Elliot had is alive.” And I’m like, “What?” I thought, “This is a really cruel joke to be playing on your twin sister.” And she’s like, “No, the child that you had is alive. You had a girl.” And I didn’t even know if I had had a boy or a girl. And I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.” You know, and I just – I hung up the phone and just started crying, of course. And other than that day, it was the best. You know, everything that I had thought I’d lost was back, plus two grandchildren, and it was – it’s the best feeling in the world.

Jim: You’re wiping – we’re all wiping tears from our eyes. But Melissa, that connection, that’s not just a physical thing; that’s a spiritual connection. That’s your mom saying, “I love you.” I think, in many ways, “I’m sorry,” is also expressed in there without saying it. Do you feel it? I know you do.

Melissa: I’m so sorry for her. I am – you know, I think – I mean, I have so many things to appreciate about my biological mother. Her strength is amazing, as you can probably imagine. That’s part of where mine comes from, even though, obviously, I get emotional.

Jim: You can hear some spunk in her voice, that’s for sure.

Melissa: She is spunky. But she has so many things to be angry about. And she’s still in that process, right? She’s still working on her own forgiveness with her family. But I can tell you, she so deeply loves me. She loves my daughters. She loves my parents. My mom and dad have not met my birth mother yet. It’s mainly a scheduling thing – right? Trying to find the opportunity for them to meet. But one of the things I so deeply love about my birth mom is that she loves my mom and dad. And she will be the first person to say, you know, “Melissa, this is the way it was supposed to be.”

Jim: Yeah.

Melissa: “They were called to be your parents. You would not have had the kind of experience being loved in my family like you were in your own.”

Jim: Wow. What a…

Melissa: What a huge sacrifice, right?

Jim: What a statement that is. There’s a lot of sadness in that, but joy for you that you ended up in a good place. Christian parents adopted you.

Melissa: Oh, yeah. My parents are amazing. My parents are the most quiet, faithful people you would probably know, right? Cheering me on always. And really, you know, lots of people have questions I think about our adoptive parents, knowing that we’ve went on this journey searching, and what is that like and was that hard for them. And you know, I can say there were times it was hard for my mom and dad because they worried about me, right?

Jim: Sure.

Melissa: As all parents do.

Jim: Well, I would think one of the outcomes of that – you can begin to think you’re not loved. You were discarded. That can set a boy or a girl, especially in their teen years, down a path of relentless rejection, self-rejection. And then these parents that have adopted you are trying to manage all that, right? How do they express to you their love for you, and yet put boundaries around you? “You can’t do that,” and all the things you have to do as a parent. They’re – they’re really the unsung heroes of the story, aren’t they?

Melissa: Mmhmm.

Jim: They step in, and they say, “We will give you a home. We will take care of you.” And that is the heart of God.

Claire: My dad testified in Texas on Monday. And the thing that he said that just really blew me away, because I hadn’t heard him say this before – but he said, “If we had known that our daughter survived an abortion when we adopted her, that we would still have wanted her and that there are no unwanted babies.” And yeah, they are the unsung heroes, because they took us in and – did they know about your…?

Melissa: Mmhmm.

Claire: Yeah. Melissa’s parents knew. But mine didn’t. But even if they had did, they would have still wanted me.

Jim: That’s got to make you feel good. Yes?

Claire: It does.

Jim: It does.

Claire: Yeah.

John: That’s the way it should be for those of us who say we’re pro-life. We should be willing to step up. Uh, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller. Our guests are Claire Culwell and Melissa Ohden. And uh, you can hear their entire stories. We’ve got it, uh, on digital download or a CD. You can get the app and listen. We have a special pro-life page set up so you can learn more about them and other ways to engage people about this matter of life. And we want to direct you to, or call us, particularly if you’d like to speak to a counselor. Because we are touching on some pretty tender stuff here. And if you’re just joining us, the topic of abortion is something that uh, is probably not suitable for younger children. Our number here, to contact us, is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

And yeah, what you just said, Claire, is something that was rattling in my head. Not too long ago, Mike Gallagher, a – a talk show host who is very outspoken on this matter, took a phone call. And the caller said, “For those kids who survive abortion, I don’t know. I mean, they’re gonna be scarred for life. Who would want them?” And you just said…

Jim: Oh, gee.

John: You just said, “We should want them!” And…

Claire: There are so many families that…

John: Yes.

Claire: …Want those babies.

John: Yes. And I just – I – I about wept as I drove in, thinking, we, the community of pro-lifers, should step up and say, “We’ll take that child.”

Jim: Well, and many do.

John: Yes. Yes.

Jim: And I wanna pat them on the back. Your parents, both of your parents…

John: Bravely so.

Jim: …Did. And I think that is just a way to – it’s another excuse, you know? Nobody – nobody – that’s the language that’ll be used – “nobody” wants these kids. And that’s not true! Again, I had a meeting with a Planned Parenthood person. And some people, you may disagree with what I’m about to say. But I just said to the person, “If you make, on average, $600 for an abortion, what if I could pay you through, you know, people that are willing to put their money this direction – what if I paid you $1,200 for an adoption placement?” And to my shock, the person said, “That could work.” Let’s just assume these babies are wanted. And I believe that’s true. We have about a million couples who want to adopt newborn babies every year, and we abort about a million newborn babies every year, right? So now we’re just talking about how do we connect people to people and have a better solution than killing a child? I just – ugh. Melissa, you feelin’ it?

Melissa: I am feelin’ it. The word that came to mind was that should not just be illegal. That should be unthinkable.

Jim: Absolutely. Claire, you a few weeks ago, few months ago testified in, I believe, the Texas House and talked about your journey. What did you say, and how did those politicians respond to you?

Claire: I’ve testified before multiple state legislatures. But I – I just want people to know that I was not my birth mother’s body. I was a separate body inside of my birth mother’s body.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Claire: And if I had had a choice – I mean, just like my twin, if my twin had had a choice, we wouldn’t have wanted to die. We wouldn’t have wanted to experience excruciating pain that ended my twin’s life. We would have wanted to live and live out the calling that God had on our life. And so – so my main purpose of going there was not to get political, but just to show them my face and tell them my name, because people like us do exist, even though so many want to deny our existence.

Jim: In fact, I think there’s a quote there that you said – “We are the dreaded complication of abortion. But we will not be silenced.” Man, that is a great statement.

Claire: Thank you. That – that’s something that Melissa said that I just identified so much with, because people don’t want to acknowledge – not only is abortion not safe – there’s so many abortion clinics that are failing their inspections – but babies are surviving.

Jim: Yes.

Claire: And – and that’s viewed as a problem…

Jim: Yeah.

Claire: …when, like we just talked about, those babies are wanted and should be viewed as – as a blessing, deserving of medical care.

Jim: Ah, I mean, again, it just takes my breath away. Melissa, you’ve testified before Congress, as well. You’ve stood outside the Senate. We touched on that last time, regarding the Born-Alive Protection Act, spearheaded by our good friend Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska. How does that make you feel when those legislators just ignore you? You’re standing right where they’re walking, right?

Melissa: Oh, yes.

Jim: They positioned you right there so you could brush shoulders with them and look them in the eye.

Melissa: Yeah, I can kind of laugh about it now, right? But I can tell you, I can see the backs of people as they ran away from me, to be perfectly honest.

Jim: They were running from you?

Melissa: Yeah, you can just see people go as…

John: Wow.

Melissa: …Quickly as they can, right? It’s, like, “Oh…”

Jim: Yeah.

Melissa: “…There they are. We’ve got to go.” And so I don’t take that personally, right? That’s about them; it’s not about me. But I can honestly say, at this point in the game, I kind of expect that from them, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Melissa: I mean, I pray for a different response, but that is now how I expect those that are supporting abortion and pushing this aggressive legislation to actually respond.

Jim: Claire, we saved another clip from your birth mom, Tonya, and we want to play that for you right now and get your response to it.

Tonya: Now, I just feel like God’s saying, “You have a voice and you need to tell it,” because – you know, my dad said, “Tonya, don’t let anyone ever take that smile away again.” He’s like, “You have a voice and you need to use it.” And I’m ready, and I stand proud of who I am. So I know God has intervened and been like, you know, I prayed and prayed and prayed, “Okay, God, put me where you want me,” and I’m a waitress. And I tell people every day, all day long, about my story. With the young girls – don’t let people talk you into it. You know, you do have a voice, and you need to use it, and there is help out there. You know, don’t be ashamed. You know, if your parents don’t want to stand behind you, there’s someone that will, and there’s someone out there that wants that baby. But I know aborting a baby – it might not bother you now, but years down the road, it’s gonna haunt you, and you’re gonna wonder, you know, “That baby’d had been this old. What would it look like? Would it been a boy or a girl?” You know, you just – you have to reach out before you make that decision.

Jim: Claire, I mean, that’s got to be amazing to hear your birth mom speak about you like that and about what she went through. How’s that make you feel?

Claire: It’s incredible to just hear the transformation and her being willing to be courageous and share her deepest, darkest, most painful secret with the world, because, I mean, even when I met her and I asked her if I could share it with people, she said yes, because she never wanted someone else to experience what she had and what we had, because of abortion. And she’s told me time and time again, that if there had been someone during her time of need to stand there and support her – like she said, someone will support you – she wouldn’t have made that choice.

Jim: Yeah.

Claire: And so, I’m so hopeful, as she is willing to come forward and use her story, too.

Jim: Yeah, it’s exciting. And I mean, I am smiling even though this is a very difficult topic, because I think the Lord is allowing those scales to fall from people’s eyes. I think the younger generation is the most pro-life generation we’ve ever had in the country, since Roe v. Wade was passed. I’m optimistic that on this issue we’re actually gaining great traction, and that comes from the heart of God, I believe, for our nation. And, man, what courage it does take. I’m so grateful to you, Claire. Melissa, to you, for speaking for the voiceless, being one at one time, and surviving that abortion and talking about it. I mean, it’s talking about your greatest pain and tragedy over and over, every day. But I’m so grateful that you have the courage to do so, so that we all can learn from you and know what that experience has done to you and how God has lifted you out of it and given you that voice. It is so good to have you with us. Thank you.

Claire: Thank you.

Melissa: Thank you.


Jim: Let me also say, John, that you know, as I think about this, we are the body of believers. This is what we’re called to do – to stand for life. God hates the shedding of innocent blood, and that’s clear in Scripture, and we know that. And I’m asking you, begging you, if I have to, would you support your local pregnancy resource centers? Help them. If you’re a church community, talk to your pastor about adopting a pregnancy resource center and taking care of their needs, so they in turn, can take care of the women that come into their clinics. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful connection? I know many do. We just need many more.

And likewise, with Focus on the Family, with our Option Ultrasound Program, you know, just over 15 years – 425,000 babies saved. I want to get to a million, and then 2 million. I want to keep saving the lives of these children as long as Focus exists. And you can do that for $60; we could save a baby’s life. We’ve got the numbers. We know the metrics. We can do this for $60. Can you help us? Let me get down on my knees on the radio – please, let’s put our money where our mouth is. Let’s, together, save the life of a child, help a mother in need, like Claire’s mom and like Melissa’s mom – at that time, their birth mothers – let’s be there.

John: Yeah. And you can find out how to activate your pro-life spirit, how to respond to this incredible couple of days of conversations. Just stop by – that’s a special page we’ve set up –, or call us. If you can, make a monthly ongoing gift; that helps us immensely. Or you might not be in a spot where you can do that; that’s okay. A one-time gift will make a big difference, and right now, we have a matching grant opportunity. Some special friends have made it possible for us to say to you, when you give today, your donation is doubled. And uh, and so please, just know that if you can do that $60 gift, that’ll be $120, that’ll be two babies. Call us today. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And if you can make a gift today, we’re gonna say thank you for joining our support team by sending a copy of the book by Melissa Ohden, You Carried Me. That’s our thank-you gift to you.

Jim: And John, finally, we want to invite as many people as possible to New York City, in Times Square, for our Alive from New York event on Saturday, May 4th. It’s gonna be just from 3 to 4-ish; it may go a little over, but around that time period. And we’ll be showing live, 4D, third trimester ultrasounds, so everybody can see what we’ve been talking about these last two days.

John: Yeah, it’s just crystal clear when you see those images.

Jim: Yeah. I mean, the technology is unbelievable. And I invite everyone. I don’t care if you’re for abortion or you’re in the pro-life community; we should show you this, and you should look at it, because 54 percent of abortion-minded women, when they see the image, they choose life. And I’m quite confident that many in the abortion movement would also say, “Wow, okay, this is changing my mind.” Let’s just talk about it. Can we have that discussion? I’d invite you also to come to Times Square. So let’s do it – May 4th, 3 p.m. Be there.

John: Alive from New York; you’ll find the details on the website. And we encourage you to pre-register to join us there.

Jim: They need to.

John: That – yeah, okay, you have to pre-register. You can’t show up if you don’t. That’s

Jim: Melissa and Claire, man, thank you for being with us the two days – traveling here and what you’ve sacrificed – being with your own children, you know, to be here, to talk to so many on behalf of those voiceless children in the womb. Thank you.

Claire: Thank you.

Melissa: Thank you. 

John: And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, thank you for joining us today, and be back with us next time – won’t you? As we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

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