Abortion’s Victims, Born and Unborn

October is Respect Life Month. Begun by the U.S. bishops in 1972, its intent, at least in part, is to focus attention prior to Election Day on the broad implications of laws and policies that impact on the sanctity of life.

At the same time, we must never lose sight of the personal impact that such issues have on individual lives—for example, the impact that abortion has, on unborn babies and also on mothers in crisis.

Next week, we’ll discuss what must be done—and what the Church and the pro-life movement are already doing—to respond to the needs of women in crisis pregnancies; to offer life-affirming alternatives to the challenges that can otherwise lead them to see abortion as their only choice; and to help provide healing for the many women (and men) who are suffering deeply from an abortion experience.

This week let us consider the baby in the womb.

Among the most powerful testaments to the living humanity of the unborn child is offered by actual survivors of abortion—women and men who were aborted in the womb, but who, even as tiny infants, had the tenacity to fight for their lives and survive.

Their lives testify to the reality of abortion. No one can look at them, or hear their stories, and deny that abortion kills; that every successful abortion destroys a living, growing human being. They are living, breathing refutations of the abortion culture’s discredited claim that there is no meaningful life before birth. All who identify as “pro-choice” should ask themselves: would I be willing to look these abortion survivors in the eye and tell them, “You should not be alive. You have violated your mother’s right to choose.” 

One such survivor, Melissa Ohden, has founded the Abortion Survivors Network. Click on this link to read some of their individual stories. Or read Melissa’s compelling book, You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir (Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2017), which I was privileged to review for the Catholic League several years ago.  

Melissa’s story brings to mind the words of the angel Clarence in Frank Capra’s iconic film, It’s a Wonderful Life: “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

That is true of all the people whose lives have been so crucial to Melissa: the nurses and staff who first heard her weak cry, got her to the ICU and continued to care for her over the ensuing weeks as she fought to live; her adoptive parents, who took her home and filled her life with love and support; members of her birth families who, when she sought them out years later, helped to make her whole. What awful holes there would have been in Melissa’s life—had she lived at all—without these people.

Then there was the pro-life man she met as she was entering a Planned Parenthood clinic to obtain birth control pills. Upon hearing her story, he invited her to join the pro-life cause, and gave her a rosary—which, she writes, began her slow, inexorable journey into the Catholic Church. Catholics who criticize pro-lifers’ prayer and counseling presence outside abortion clinics might ponder the awful hole that could have existed for Melissa without that man’s crucial presence in her life that day.

More powerful to contemplate are the awful holes that would exist today in the many lives that Melissa has touched so deeply, had she been successfully aborted—or had she been left to die without treatment after surviving the abortion procedure, as her maternal grandmother had demanded (and as government leaders like Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Ralph Northam of Virginia favor allowing—along with Barack Obama, who as a state senator once voted against requiring life-sustaining treatment for such babies).

Consider Melissa’s adoptive parents, for whom this “unwanted” baby, intended to be discarded, became such an integral, loving part of their lives and family; her friends, siblings and extended family members; all the people she ministered to during her career in social work, in the fields of mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence and child welfare; and those to whom she now helps bring hope and healing through her various pro-life ministries. And of course, where would the lives of her own husband and children be without her?

Most dramatic is the awful hole that would have existed—that did, in fact, exist, until Melissa found her—in the life of her birth mother. Melissa learned that her mother had not wanted the abortion, that as a pregnant teen she had been forced into it by her own mother. Learning years later that her daughter had lived, then meeting and forming a loving relationship with her, filled that awful hole in her life; and the relationship also filled the most awful hole in Melissa’s life: the mistaken belief that her own mother had not wanted her.

It is easy to see the holes that would exist in so many lives today if Melissa Ohden had not lived.

But what about the millions of babies who did not live? How many “awful holes,” in how many lives, exist today because the Melissa Ohdens who would have filled them were killed by abortion?

To the mind-numbing tragedy of more than 60 million innocent lives lost, add those countless millions of empty, wounded lives. That gives some idea of the true depth of pain and suffering that America’s abortion carnage has wrought.

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

One thought on “Abortion’s Victims, Born and Unborn

  1. Beautifully said Rick. I wonder how many other states will make legal infanticide following unsuccessful abortion. Of course, perhaps the larger scandal is that 50% of Catholics will have voted for the perpetrators of these new laws.

    Sadly, this terror has not been widely condemned by bishops but abolishing capital punishment has. Not that I favor it at all but now it is likely that more lives are silently lost in this nation through legal infanticide than capital punishment while bishops & priests confuse the laity about voting for intrinsic evil.

    Yet there is great hope in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as told at Fatima 103 years ago this Tuesday. Millions are praying the rosary as she asked!


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