Abortion survivor to speak at Midwest March for Life, May 1 in J.C.


CLICK HERE to read a related story. 

Melissa Ohden’s circle of friends includes women who have had abortions, as well as former abortionists and abortion clinic workers.

“I see them for who they are, not just the abortion experience they have,” said Mrs. Ohden, founding CEO of The Abortion Survivors Network (abortionsurvivors.org) and author of You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir.

Mrs. Ohden, who survived an attempt to end her life in the womb by a failed saline-infusion abortion, will share her story at this year’s Midwest March for Life in Jefferson City.

The 15th annual March and rally will take place on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, on the grounds of the Missouri State Capitol.

Activities are planned from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Parishes and schools throughout the diocese are encouraged to attend.

Participants are urged to wear red.

The day’s activities will begin at 8 a.m. with a Prayer Walk in the Capitol, and the praying of the Rosary on the North Lawn of the Capitol.

The pre-march rally will start at 9:15 a.m. Presenters will include: Mrs. Ohden; Ivy Almon, Brand Ambassador of Support After Abortion; Brandy Meeks, President of Vitae Foundation; Bridget Van Means, CEO Vision Leader of ThriVe Nation; Gabriel Cobb, Tri21 triathlete and motivational speaker; and Father Anthony Viviano, moderator for Pro-life Ministry in the Jefferson City diocese.

The March through downtown Jefferson City’s streets will occur immediately after the rally.

A grilled hot dog lunch prepared by the Knights of Columbus St. Peter Parish Council in Fulton will be offered at a reasonable cost.

A youth rally will be held at 12:15 p.m. Presenters will include Nate Robertson, vice president of Sidewalk Advocates For Life; Reagan Barklage, national field director for Students For Life America; pro-life activist Megan Mastro; Chuck and Linda Raymond with Silent No More and Project Joseph, and Levi Hart, senior investments officer of ThriVe Nation.

Dena Espenscheid, senior director of coalitions at the Leadership Institute, will give an update on the statewide ballot initiative at 12:15 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

Further information and a full listing of the agenda for the day can be found at: midwestmarchforlife.com.

Accomplished young vocalist Claire Huntley, a junior at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, will perform at 8:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau will pray the Opening Prayer and give remarks at the pre-march rally.

He will also preside and preach the homily at the Closing Mass at 1:30 p.m. in the nearby Proto-Cathedral of St. Peter. Bishop James V. Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph will concelebrate.

Copies of Mrs. Ohden’s latest book, Abortion Survivors Break Their Silence, will be available for purchase.

“More alike”

Some of the most difficult conversations Mrs. Ohden has had are when women contact The Abortion Survivors Network, hoping to find out that their baby survived their abortion.

She noted that while abortion survivors’ experiences are more diverse than many people realize, “we do have a lot of common issues that we face, both in terms of strengths and difficulties.”

Strengths often include resilience, a sense of purpose, and an unusual capacity to forgive.

“There are also often significant issues with identity, self-esteem and self-worth, high levels of anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty ‘fitting in’ to a society that is so saturated by abortion,” she said.

Given her own history, many people are surprised to learn of Mrs. Ohden’s tight friendships with women who have had abortions and with people who have carried them out.

“I find that through all of these types of abortion experiences — whether having the abortion, surviving it or being a part of it — we are more alike than we are different,” she said. “First as human beings, but then, also, in being impacted by the abortion.”

She said there’s never been a more critical time for people to attend the Midwest March for Life, show their solidarity and actively advocate for life in the womb.

“For one thing, it’s encouraging for people to gather together and see that there are so many people with shared beliefs, regardless of how the media and abortion industry try to paint being pro-life,” she said.

Furthermore, “our public witness helps educate people and bring forth meaningful conversations about the sanctity of human life, abortion, and healing,” she stated.

Also, with powerful and well-funded interests attempting to enshrine abortion-on-demand in Missouri’s Constitution through the initiative petition process, “it’s so important for truth to be heard and seen, and for all of us to collaborate together,” said Mrs. Ohden.

Unique perspective

The Abortion Survivors Network is the only healing and advocacy organization for abortion survivors and their families worldwide.

Mrs. Ohden is one of likely tens of thousands of abortion survivors in the United States.

As of January of this year, she and her team had connected with over 700 survivors.

She’s convinced of the importance of people who have survived failed abortions to tell their stories to the masses.

“Abortion survivors humanize abortion in a way that no one else can,” she observed. “As vulnerable as that makes us, there’s purpose and meaning born from the pain we experience.”

Through that sharing, other people who survived abortion also find out that they aren’t alone.

“Raising one’s voice not only furthers our own healing but brings healing to others,” Mrs. Ohden said.

She pointed out that babies survive all types of abortion procedures, even both abortion pills.

“The mothers who are experiencing this, need help and hope, as do the babies who are at risk of being aborted again,” she said.

She insisted that abortion survivors and their mothers are not each other’s enemies.

“I was the primary and intended victim of that abortion procedure,” she stated. “My birthmother, Ruth, was the secondary victim.”

Instead of fear of condemnation, she wants women and men, abortionists, abortion clinic nurses and workers, and all of this abortion-scarred society to come to full realization that there is hope and healing after abortion.

“The pro-life movement isn’t just lip service when we say we’re pro-life, pro-woman and pro-child,” Mrs. Ohden noted.

“We live it out in action, and if anyone who’s been impacted by abortion attends the March, they will certainly experience that,” she said.

God’s fingerprints

Mrs. Ohden often hears that people can recognize God’s handiwork in their lives by simply looking closely.

“For me, his fingerprints are all over my life — from my survival, to giving birth to my oldest daughter at the same hospital where my life was intended to end in abortion, even in moving to Kansas City, not knowing that my birthmother and half-sister live in the area,” she said.

She noted that forgiveness and reconciliation are indispensable components in everyone’s life, and hers is no different.

“My prayer continuously is for the repose of the soul of my abortionist and my grandmother, and for my birthmother and her family to experience healing — and if it’s God’s will, reconciliation,” she said.

“That’s my prayer for all families impacted by abortion,” she added.

She’s confident that this year’s Midwest March for Life will bring renewed collaboration and commitment for grassroots pro-lifers; media attention that highlights the humanity of the preborn and the inhumanity of abortion; and inspiration “to continue on with so much urgency swirling around us.”

As the March draws near, Mrs. Ohden asks for prayers for strength and discernment for all of the event’s speakers and leaders.

“With great urgency comes great stress, and the needs of those we serve continue to increase in today’s world,” she said.

She hopes people who attend the March will be stirred to live each day with boldness, even in life’s seemingly most ordinary circumstances.

“It’s loving people, forgiving people, our ‘little fiats,’ that make an extraordinary difference in transforming our lives, our families, our culture,” she stated.

“I hope that people come away recognizing that if God can use me in the way he has, they can cooperate with his will, as well.”