Melissa Ohden, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt, shares her incredible story about the power of love and forgiveness as she relates how God's grace enabled her to build relationships with her mother and other family members. (Part 2 of 2)
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John Fuller: Melissa Ohden was our guest last time on “Focus on the Family,” sharing her incredible testimony of life. And, uh, she’s back again today. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And, Jim, what a powerful, unforgettable...
Jim Daly: Yeah.
John: ...Uh, testimony we had last time.
Jim: Well, Melissa’s story is a reminder of what a miracle life is and the wonder of the human body - what God has created as the capstone of his creation. Melissa survived a saline abortion. Her 19-year-old mother was into her third trimester, when she went for the abortion procedure. She survived that terrible trauma. Melissa was born weighing less than three pounds. And the clinic nurse, uh, took her out of that abortion environment - I’m assuming maybe across the hall, to a part of the hospital where she spent the next couple of months surviving that abortion attempt. And, uh, she was in critical condition, but she recovered. She was raised by some loving adoptive parents. Uh, Melissa didn’t know about her adoption until her teen sister, uh, told her that, you know, she was adopted but at least my parents wanted me - I mean, just bruising rejection. That’s been rectified. Don’t be mad at her sister. Um, but those are the things that transpire in a family. And yet, Melissa has such a powerful story of redemption. And the Lord’s story through Melissa is what we’re listening to.
John: Yeah, she’s, uh - she’s got this spirit that says, go, can do for God. And, uh, right now Melissa is spending a lot of time raising awareness of the impact of abortion on women, on men, on children, families, communities. And, uh, she’s the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network. She and her husband Ryan live in Kansas City. They have two young daughters. And she’s written a book called, . We’ve got that at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Melissa, welcome back to “Focus on the Family.”
Melissa: Thank you, again.
Jim: Man, it’s a privilege just to be able to say that (laughter).
Melissa: It is.
Jim: Man, what a story the Lord has given you. You know, so often when I speak, I talk about the fact that our testimonies don’t belong to us. They belong to Him. He paid the price for them. I think what He whispers in our spirit is, are you willing to walk it? And I’m impressed with your testimony that God has given you. Man, you have walked an incredible journey, um, even from your first breath. And how few people are defined by that moment? I mean, we’re born. And if we survive birth, we continue to grow and do the normal things of life. You came into the world with the odds stacked against you, including your mother’s-- and those around your mom’s --decision to abort you. Um, contemplating that, looking at that in the context of eternal life, what do you think about that? ... That’s a big thing.
Melissa: It is. It’s a lot. I think people look upon it, right? - and say, “that’s a heavy load to carry.” Yes and no. Yes, it can be. But truly, I don’t carry the weight of it, because I know God spared my life. I know God gave me this mission. And I know that this world is temporal. You know, this - this is not going to last forever. And, um, yeah, I am just so eternally grateful for the gift of my life.
Jim: Well, and the way you’re using it to share the story, to tell people what happened, to lift up the plight of abortion - you know, the taking of life and the fact that hundreds of babies every year survive abortion - and where do they go emotionally, spiritually? And you’re providing that through your efforts of The Abortion Survivors Network. So we’re grateful for that. Hopefully, we’ll link to that in case you, one of our listeners, is a survivor of abortion. This is a place for you to go and get more help. And we’re grateful for it.
And you know, I’m thinking of Genesis 50:20, which is a great part of Scripture. You’re nodding your head yes right now. But it says you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done - the saving of many lives. Does that resonate with you?
Melissa: That’s - you know, I could pick out a handful of verses where I say that’s my - that’s my life verse right there. That’s my life verse. Again - and I think all of us need to keep that piece of Scripture in mind. All of us are harmed in one way or another by someone else. And I think when you’re in the midst of it, it’s easy to hold a grudge, or be angry, or bitter, or question God’s plan in the midst of that. But, I always encourage people to take a step back and see the greater story that God is writing.
Melissa: You know, that’s been one of the most important pieces for me to really have learned, even just in the last five years or so. If God is the author of life, which we know that He is, right? - He’s the creator of life - He’s not done creating. He’s not done writing. This is not a book that has an ending already, right?
Melissa: He’s still writing the story. But we have to be willing to live out the story that He’s writing for us.
Jim: That’s so very true. I mean - and you come across these stories that, if it was still being compiled today, the Scriptures, you’d say, that story would be in there. But that’s the - the work of a living Word, right? The living Word is what we’re talking about. And your story, it would have been in there if it was 2,000 years ago, right? We would talk about Melissa like we talk about Ruth, or Esther. And I love that. And you should be proud of that, because you’ve made good decisions after making bad decisions. And we talked about that last time. If you missed the discussion last time, get a copy of it. We’ll - get a download or the app...
John: Get the CD or - yeah, the app is a great resource.
Jim: It was a (laughter) really powerful interaction. We ended, Melissa, with your dad and your desire with your biological father to reconnect. You sent him a letter. He never responded. And that’s where we dropped off. Let’s continue the story there. Uh, what did you find out about your dad? You were living, unbeknownst to you, in the same town. So, what transpired after years, not hearing back from the kind and loving letter you sent him?
Melissa: Yeah. I actually figured out about six months after I sent him that letter that he passed away. I had developed an interesting habit of googling his name on the Internet from time to time. You know, we all do that now, right? We google people. We google names.
Jim: Oh, yeah. But my goodness, there’s no embarrassment for you to do that.
Melissa: (Laughter) Well, in the respect that my husband loved me so much that he - he had warned me and said, “Melissa, you know, I honestly wish you wouldn’t do that, because one of these times you’re going to come across something you wish that you wouldn’t.”
Jim: Oh. Now, there may be wisdom in that.
Melissa: You can share that with him sometime. (Laughter).
Jim: Yeah. (Laughter). I’ll leave that to you. But, uh - but what did transpire then? You found out that he had passed away at, I think, age 51.
Jim: And, uh, how many years prior did - do you think he had a chance to look at your letter?
Melissa: I know that he did receive the letter and had read it. After I discovered that he had passed away, his family actually entered into my life. So, you know, over a course of a few months, I had tried to connect with them and didn’t receive any response. But, what I didn’t know was that, at the same time, some of them were looking for me. Because, when they went to clean out his office, when he passed away, they actually found my letter tucked in his top desk drawer.
Jim: Oh, so that was the connection. So he was - he was passed away. So he was deceased, and then they found the letter in his desk or somewhere. And then they began to reach out to you.
Jim: Wow. That is wonderful.
Melissa: It is, you know. And I think that’s another great example of how, in the midst of things - we can’t see what God is doing, right? Somebody could look upon that and go, oh, once again, Melissa’s being rejected by her biological family. But what I didn’t realize is that they were trying to find me.
Jim: Yeah. Did that reunion occur? Did you meet with them? And who - who did you meet of your father’s family that, um, came to say, hi, and we want to know you, and who are you, and...?
Melissa: Over nine years ago, my grandfather and my great aunt entered into our lives. So we had all lived in the same kind of small community. It made it quite easy for us to connect. You know, I wish that I could say that I’ve been united with all of my birth father’s family, but it’s honestly not that simple. This is pretty new information for them. They’re still trying to come to grips with it, and, you know, reconcile the fact that we may never know how much my birth father knew what role he potentially played. And so, they have to still heal and - and work their way through that. But I do take hope, because I - I do, once again, trust in God’s plan that if I am to be united with more members of my birth father’s family, it’s going to happen. And it will happen in God’s way and in His time.
Jim: What was that connection like with your grandfather? You mentioned him, and you smile with him. There’s something special I’m picking up there. Um, tell me about that.
Melissa: (great emotion) You know, I’m 40 years old.
Jim: It’s OK.
Melissa: And I choke up about the fact that my grandfather is a part of my life. I just saw him a few weeks ago again. We don’t see each other that often, anymore. This was not how I planned for it to look years ago, right? When I set out looking for my biological family. But, what I so appreciate is that this is what God intended for it to look like, that my grandfather is this huge part of my life, that - in what he shares, you know. The knowledge of his granddaughter and now his great-granddaughters, have had this huge impact on his life.
Melissa: So what an incredible gift it is for me. It means the world to me.
Jim: That - I could tell. (EMOTION) There’s just something, when you expressed it, that there’s a connection that you have with your grandfather. And it’s beautiful. You know, so many people, Melissa - it may not even be in this context - so many people are wounded. And what I love in your expression there is your hope, the way you hang onto God. Um, that’s a real encouragement to many, many people. It may not be because of abortion or anything like that. It’s just an estranged relationship with your family, uh, maybe a prodigal child. Whatever that is, I mean, people are connecting - I am connecting - with that strength of hope in you, that it’s always God. God has an end to the story. And if you follow Him and stay close to him, it’ll be, I think, a good end of the story, just like you’re describing with your grandfather.
Melissa: Yeah. It may not look anything like you expected it to...
Jim: (Laughter) Right.
Melissa: ...But there is such incredible goodness in it.
Jim: Well, think of that, just with your kids. They have a great-grandfather that they didn’t have. Wow.
Melissa: Yeah. And my grandparents are deceased, my adoptive grandparents. And so, yeah, God has redeemed and restored so many corners of my life.
Jim: Um, Melissa, for those people who may not have met their grandparents, um, maybe not their birth parents, what would you say to them in terms of the difficulty of that pursuit? I mean, sometimes there may be wisdom in not pursuing it. And that’s a tough decision. What advice would you have for them?
Melissa: Definitely cover all of that in prayer. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. You know, I often describe to people - they could never understand the depths to which I have had to pray over every step that (laughter) I have taken in my life. But when God intends for you to start searching, I do truly believe that He places it on your heart. And He makes things happen. You know, He gets the ball rolling. And so, take it under very prayerful advisement and recognize that what you find may not always be what you’re looking for, in the respect...
Jim: Right. Rarely, I would think.
Melissa: Right - in the respect that it can be easy to have this idea in our head on what our family is going to look like, or that, you know, things are going to be perfect, right? Everybody will embrace, and - and that’s not often how it goes. And so, you really have to be prepared to - to handle that. And so definitely, you know, just to prayerfully consider all of it and - and follow the will of God. Be willing to - to go there, if that’s...
Melissa: ...where He’s leading you.
Jim: Now, the other part of the story, moving in your mother’s direction, your biological mother, uh, unfold that for us. Um, where did that go? How long did that take you, how many years? And what emotions did you feel in that pursuit of getting to meet your biological mother?
Melissa: That’s been a very long journey of reconciliation with my birth mother. I found her parents about the same time I found my birth father back in 2007. I couldn’t find her, actually. But I found them and sent them a letter just asking for them to - to send along messages to her on my behalf and didn’t ever expect to hear back from them. And they were very gracious in responding to me. My grandfather actually sent me a letter. You know, in his letter, he admitted that he knew I knew that my live birth was not the intention that day at the hospital. And I think that was very courageous of him, given the circumstances. But he went on and, you know, unfortunately told me my birth mother had never told anyone about the abortion, like so many women, and also let me know that my messages would not be passed along to her, because they were completely estranged at that point in time.
Jim: Oh, her - this is her dad and her?
Jim: Wow. And so did you continue to try, or did you give up? Or what happened?
Melissa: That was a real turning point for me, because I really had gotten to this place, where I accepted that God’s will does reign supreme. And at some point, I needed to find peace with the fact that I have to trust Him - right? - and not - not try to go busting down doors that don’t need to be opened, right? I think, um (laughter) - we’re all capable of doing that. Like, keep trying, keep trying, right? And I think, at some point, you just have to go, yeah, you know what? I am willing to really let go and let God.
Jim: Your whole life is about trusting the Lord, if you didn’t know that.
Jim: I mean, I’m listening to your story...
Melissa: All of our lives are, right?
Jim: Girl, you are the trust in God. I mean, that’s your whole thing! So where did it go? So you’re trusting the Lord. That’s terrific. That’s awesome. That’s right. And then what’s going on with your pursuit of your biological mom?
Melissa: Yeah. Really let that just be on the back-burner for me and let...
Jim: So you let it go.
Melissa: Absolutely. Let it go. And, you know, came forward publicly, starting to talk to the world about my story, became a mother myself. And you know, I love that when I finally truly surrendered myself to Him - and I did, I felt it, I said it, I knew it - then He started to work once again. And so, it was back in 2013 that a member of my birth mother’s family actually reached out to me. It was a cousin of hers.
Jim: In ‘13 - can I ask you this? It just struck me. When you gave birth to your first child, what was that moment like for you?
Melissa: Well, I gave birth at the same hospital where my life was supposed to end. So (laughter)...
Jim: I mean...
Melissa: ...It was rather emotional, as you can probably guess.
Jim: Oh, my goodness, Melissa.
Melissa: You know, we often say - right? - you can see God’s fingerprints on all of our lives. And I often say I see his handprints.
Jim: Oh, absolutely. But in your heart, I mean, the...
Jim: ...The emotion of that, to be in that birth center at the very hospital, where they tried to take your life, and here you’re giving life. What was running through your mind?
Melissa: It was absolutely surreal. It was - you know, I often joke, I make a list of things that I say I will never do. (Laughter) And usually, God reveals to me that that’s not the way that it’s (laughter) going to go. But giving birth at that hospital was high on my list of things that I said I was never going to do.
Jim: Oh, I can imagine.
Melissa: Emotionally, spiritually, I could not - in my opinion, I didn’t think I could do it. And - and God showed Ryan and I that Olivia was to be born there.
Jim: Melissa, I do want to fast forward where - we’ve got just a few minutes, um, to talk about that relationship with your - your birth mom. So take us to that part of the story, that connection that finally did happen, and where you’re at today.
Melissa: Yeah. So, my birth mother’s cousin connected with me in 2013. And that’s how I found out that the abortion was forced, that...
Jim: What does that mean? Describe what that means.
Melissa: Well, unfortunately, it means that when my grandparents, my maternal grandparents, discovered that she was pregnant, they did not give her any other choice. My maternal grandmother was a prominent nurse in their community and so was well-connected with the abortionist, and so literally drugged my birth mother up so she could not protect herself or protect me.
Melissa: And so rendered her incapacitated to make any other kind of decision, and so then placed her in the hospital and, um, didn’t believe that anyone would ever find out that it wasn’t her choice, right? They thought that - that people would just go along with that knowledge that it was her choice, she wanted to have this abortion. And, most certainly, I would never be a part of that conversation. So that’s what I discovered when her cousin contacted me. And that’s when I learned, really, the biggest bombshell, (laughter) if we didn’t think there already were enough.
Jim: No kidding.
Melissa: The greatest bombshell hit then. And that’s when I discovered that she actually lived over 30 years of her life believing that I had died that day at the hospital.
Jim: ‘Cause that was the line. That’s what everybody said.
Melissa: The family knew, initially, that I had survived. And my grandmother had told members of the family. And - but it was one of those things - right? - that you don’t talk about. And certainly, they wouldn’t have known if I had continued to live or what my life had looked like. But she did not - my birth mother did not willingly place me for adoption. She was told, you know, it was a monster. (EMOTION) It is hideous. Don’t look at it. And so she spent over 30 years of her life with such incredible suffering, you know, believing that God was punishing her for not protecting me. And she’s always said, you know, her greatest regret in life is that she didn’t run away from her family to protect me.
Melissa: Every woman deserves better than that.
Jim: What a burden to carry.
Melissa: And so, when we first started connecting, really, we had to lay a firm foundation of love and trust, because we were both these two wounded women, right? We had faced our own wounds in life. And so, we had to learn to trust each other, and she had to learn to accept that she is indeed loved and forgiven by me. She was not raised in a home where that was typical, and so, we spent years building that trust and laying that foundation. And, you know, I’m happy to say we met face-to-face for the first time over a year-and-a-half ago. What I didn’t know is that when we moved to Kansas City five years ago, she lives in that area.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Melissa: (Laughter) One of my half-sisters lives there. God is very clear in my life. And so my birth mother is now a huge part of my family. She is one of my greatest supports. And to see her strength, I know where mine comes from.
Jim: What - if you are able, to just give us a little glimpse of that intimacy between the two of you, that emotional intimacy. When you first started talking with one another and that trust was there, how did you hug each other? How did you communicate? How did you say, “it’s OK,” to her?
Melissa: It’s almost indescribable. You know, it’s one of those things I really struggle to put into words because it really defies (laughter) - it defies human sense when we look at it, right?
Melissa: Because for me, it only makes sense when I see it through the lens of God, because I know that what has happened is absolutely all his hand and exactly what He wanted. But, you know, the first time we ever met publicly, it was very symbolic, I think. My half-sister was holding my birth mother’s hand. And as I approached, (emotion) she let go of her hand and placed it in mine. And it was like...
Melissa: ...That’s the way it was supposed to be. And I just hugged her that day. And I said, “It’s been a long time.” And it had been. It had been 37 years. And she could be angry or bitter, and she’s not. I mean, she’s still on her own journey of forgiveness with her family.
Jim: Sure. Oh, my goodness.
Melissa: Absolutely. But, what I love so much about my birth mother’s experience is that she loves my adoptive parents so much.
Melissa: She is so thankful for how they raised me. And so...
Jim: They’re connected, obviously.
Melissa: Yeah. They haven’t met yet, but we are in that process of finding a time for everybody to meet. And I just love the fact that this is not a clean and neat story, (chuckling) right? There’s these roller coasters of highs and lows and - and difficulties and suffering. But in the midst of it, God is present. And He’s still working, and He’s not done.
Jim: Yeah. But, you know, the clean and neat part that strikes me; It’s not for you, or for your birth mom, or for your adoptive parents, or your maternal grandparents. And, I mean, it’s not. But God, for Him? It’s clear. It’s about redemption. This is about life and about redemption. That is clear. And one by one, the redemptive power of God is working through this story. Um, that is so powerful. (EMOTION) Your adoptive parents, they’ve done so much, the hard work. I want to make sure that we tip our hat to them.
Jim: Especially with, uh, Wait No More, which we do here, adopting kids out of foster care. It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But I love the fact that they stepped in the gap. They deserve a lot of credit.
Melissa: They do.
Melissa: They do. I’m going to see my parents here very soon. And I kept thinking, you know, what can I do to honor them more in our world? And I know for them, they would say, “There’s nothing. There’s nothing you have to do.” But for me, I feel like sharing our story is one of the things that I can do to give them honor.
Jim: Well, and it’s a powerful, powerful story. Uh, there is so much - your book, is a beautiful description of God’s love for all of us. And particularly, obviously, it’s your story. It’s His love for you and for your birth mom and your birth father and their families and your adoptive parents. I mean, this just - if this doesn’t convince people that are abortion-minded, that support abortion, to be pro-life, I don’t know what will. This is the picture of how God intends it.
And the enemy, just like in John 10:10, comes to steal, kill and destroy. Um, that’s his expression of what he wants to do, and he has been trying to do that in your life. But God has stepped in and protected you, and I just love it. I just love it. It is an incredible story. Um, man, get a copy of Melissa’s book, . Get a copy of the broadcast to talk with those who are wounded and who are hurting. I am so mindful, Melissa, of the women who have had abortion, Christian women too. Let’s not hide. Let’s be honest. Christian men who have encouraged their Christian girlfriends or wives to have an abortion. It’s there. God’s big enough to handle all of this, but we need that redemptive, um, salvation to come into our hearts to redeem what’s there. And your story’s so full of redemption. Thank you. Thank you for living such a story before us and before the Lord. God bless you.
Melissa: Thank you guys so much. It’s been an honor.
John: Well, the past couple of days with Melissa Ohden, uh, are available, if you’ve only just recently joined us here - uh, two really powerful days - on CD, or you can get a download. Uh, and then, of course, get a copy of Melissa’s book, , which captures all of this in great detail. And you can also learn more about Melissa’s outreach, uh, The Abortion Survivors Network, uh, all of this at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Uh, if you need help, um, with any of these resources, or you’d like to connect with one of our caring Christian counselors here, our number is 800-232-6459.
Jim: Melissa, for that woman who may be, uh, the role of your mom - she’s had the abortion. Maybe that child didn’t survive. Can you speak to her and her pain? She’s listening right now. And then to that child that may have survived an abortion, speak to both. And what can they do to trust the Lord the way you have trusted the Lord? That’s a big comment right at the end. But speak to that woman first, the grief that’s in her heart.
Melissa: For any woman who has had an abortion, you know, I truly hope that you’ve heard through my story that you are loved and you are forgiven. And, you know, you may not see your child, of course, here on earth, but I hope that you take faith to heart and know you will see your child in Heaven someday. They are waiting to embrace you, just like I’ve embraced my biological mother. And so I want people to know that they’re loved and forgiven. And if you have had an abortion, know you can turn to “Focus on the Family” here for support, or your local pregnancy center, your church. There is always somebody that you can talk to. And for someone who survived an abortion, trust me, I know that there are lots of us out there. I’ve had contact now with 235 other survivors. You know, please connect with us via theabortionsurvivors.com. Know that you’re not alone. Know that you’re not a mistake. Know that even if people have tried to make you feel unloved or unworthy, that there is worth and value in your life.
Jim: Powerful. Um, powerful. Thanks again for being here.
John: And, uh, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thank you for listening today. And, uh, join us next time, as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Melissa OhdenView Bio
Melissa Ohden is the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network, which seeks to educate the public about failed abortions while providing emotional, mental and spiritual support to the abortion survivors. Melissa herself is the survivor of a failed saline infusion abortion attempt which nearly ended her life at seven months gestation. She is a highly-regarded pro-life speaker, has been interviewed on radio and TV programs, and has testified before the U.S. Congress. She is the author of a book titled You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir, which was released in January, 2017. She and her husband, Ryan, have a daughter named Olivia. Learn more about Melissa by visiting her website, melissaohden.com.