By Amelia Johnson
Women’s activist, Melissa Ohden, spoke at the Red Barn at the University of Louisville on Wed. about her personal abortion survival story.
“I never thought anyone would want to hear my story,” she said. “I felt ashamed and embarrassed.”
Ohden began with the re-telling of her family history, much of which was unknown until her teenage years. Ohden’s biological mother was a victim of a forced saline induced abortion in 1977. Her biological grandmother gave consent to the abortion while her biological mother was sedated and unaware of the procedure and its risks. The drug-induced attempt was unsuccessful, and she was born under circumstances that cannot be medically explained. While undergoing many medical tribulations as an infant, she was adopted by a loving family in Iowa.
When finding out about the circumstances under which she was born, Ohden struggled emotionally to understand her newfound story as well as how to express it. It was extremely difficult for her during her college years at Iowa State to open up completely to her peers about her story.
Her years of silence were later translated into a tremendous amount of love and support to the women’s community. She obtained a degree in social work, and fulfilled a career that helped many young women similar to her biological mother. She began to step outside of her career, becoming a voice for abortion survivors. Her personal website, www.melissaohden.com, became a resource for survivors and a source of information to the public, increasing awareness of the resources for pregnant women.
She voiced her advocacy of post-abortion counseling as well as information for pregnant college-aged women about the choices and resources they might not know they have.
“I hope to give you the opportunity to know you should never be silenced,” Ohden said while reaching out to the audience about finding their voice.
While becoming a public figure, she decided to reach out to her biological parents. While she was never able to speak to her biological father, as he passed away shortly after she mailed him a letter, she was able to speak to his family. She tried several times to contact her biological mother, but did not receive a response. Ohden was unaware that her biological mother and father didn’t know that she had survived the abortion. Her biological father’s parents did not know that Ohden existed until they found her letter after he had passed away.
Ohden was overcome with emotions as she spoke to the audience about the heart-wrenching letter she had finally received from her biological mother on her 36th birthday. It spoke of how grateful she was that Ohden was alive and that she wished her biological father could have known the truth about her survival.
“I don’t take a second of my life for granted,” said Ohden.