WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops have urged support for legislation to limit abortion on the same day as abortion survivor Melissa Ohden appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ohden testified before the committee Tuesday during hearings on the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act, telling senators that “abortion doesn't spare a child from suffering; it causes suffering.”
“I have lived every day since discovering the truth about my survival at the age of 14 knowing that, sadly, children just like me are being subjected to similarly horrific, painful abortion procedures that lead to their deaths,” she said.
The bill would prohibit abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy, at which point there is broad consensus that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain.
Ohden survived a saline-infusion abortion when she was at 31 weeks’ gestation. She said her birthmother, who was a teenager, was pressured into having an abortion she did not want.
Five days after being injected with the saline solution, Ohden’s mother gave birth to her. She weighed only 2 pounds and 14 ounces.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life comittee, said that the bill highlights the “shameful reality that the United States is one of only seven nations worldwide that allows the barbaric practice of late-term abortion, when a child likely feels pain and might even live outside the womb with appropriate medical assistance.”
The legislation was introduced by committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has sponsored similar legislation each year since 2013.
"I don't believe abortion five months into the pregnancy makes us a better nation. America's at her best when she's standing up for the least among us,” said Graham during the hearing.
During her own opening remarks, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., accused Graham of trying to play politics with women’s health and said that the bill itself is unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court has made clear, repeatedly, that laws banning abortion before viability are unconstitutional,” Feinstein said, noting that similar state-level bans at 20 weeks have been struck down.
Ohden offered the senators a graphic account of how saline abortions like the one she survived are intended to kill the unborn child.
“As the toxic salt solution of the saline-infusion abortion was injected into the amniotic fluid surrounding me in the womb, attempting to scald and poison me to death, I wonder how long it took for the pain to set in,” she said.
“If you read about it online or in medical journals, you will find children like me called the ‘red skinned,’ or ‘candy-apple babies,’ because that toxic solution would turn the skin bright red as it peeled it away and moved internally into the organs.”
Ohden said that her medical records state that “a saline infusion for an abortion was done, but was unsuccessful,” meaning that she was born alive. A nurse noticed her breathing, she explained, and brought her to the neonatal intensive care unit. Only then was any effort made to reduce the amount of pain she was in.
“I can only imagine how my pain finally began to subside as medical treatment was provided to me,” she said.
Due to the effects of the abortion and premature birth, Ohden had numerous medical issues, including jaundice, seizures and respiratory issues. She has since recovered and says her life is “a set of many miracles.”
Ohden, the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, said she has connected with 281 abortion survivors. She suspects there are many more abortion survivors, as proper statistics on aboriton survival are not kept.
“Every child deserves better than to suffer the pain of an abortion,” she said.
Archbishop Naumann said in a statement circulated by the U.S. bishops' conference Tuesday that such procedures are dangerous to the woman and noted that the vast majority of Americans are opposed to late-term abortions.
“It is time for Congress to pass this bill,” he said.
“I also pray that consideration of this bill moves our country closer to recognizing all unborn babies as legal persons worthy of our love and respect,” said Archbishop Naumann.
The other six countries that permit late-term abortion are Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.