After 40 years of legal abortion in the United States, the case for life is poignantly made by abortion survivors themselves. These are people whose mothers were headed to see the abortionist, but by a miracle of grace were saved. Now, looking back as adults, they realize that their personal connection gives them a responsibility to promote the message of life.
Three abortion survivors shared their stories with the Register.
Susie Araujo, 36, of Corona, Calif., is an elementary-school teacher. She is Catholic, a board member for Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (LAPSforLife.org), which offers alternatives to abortion, and she volunteers to counsel abortion-minded women. Her dedication to the pro-life cause is motivated, in part, because of her own story.
Her mother was a young Mexican immigrant to the U.S. who spoke no English; her only family in the area were her aunt and uncle. She met her dad, also a Mexican immigrant, and soon became pregnant. In a story Araujo first heard when she was 15, the aunt told her mother "to take care of this problem" with an abortion, a decision with which her father agreed. Araujo remarked, "My mom had little education and felt alone, but she knew abortion was wrong and said, ‘Regardless of whether or not he marries me, I’m going to have this baby.’"
The aunt and boyfriend dropped the matter for a few months, but then they suggested Araujo’s mother go to the doctor for a "checkup." As Araujo explained, "They lied; my aunt and father took her to an abortion clinic."
The young mother unknowingly signed papers agreeing to an abortion. (The papers were in English, which she was unable to read.)
As Providence would have it, the baby had just passed the three-month mark in her development in the womb, and the abortionist had the wrong equipment that day. As he explained this to her aunt, he used the word "abortion" in English, and Araujo’s mother realized she had been tricked. As Araujo put it, "She was furious. She raced out of the clinic and let my dad have it. She said, ‘I told you I wanted to have this baby!’"
Araujo continued, "So my mom didn’t get an abortion because the abortionist had the wrong tools. Otherwise, he would have chopped me up."
Araujo’s parents reconciled, and today she is the oldest of their five children. Araujo has never discussed the near abortion with her father or aunt, but noted, "I don’t take it personally, because my aunt and father didn’t know me when I was in the womb. But my aunt still tells me she is ‘pro-choice.’ That makes me think, ‘She once told my mom to abort me.’"
Araujo sometimes shares the story of her "brush with death" when she raises funds for LAPS. She is greeted with audiences’ "wide eyes and dropping jaws." She also noted that the abortion-minded women she counsels are much like her mother once was: Hispanic immigrants, alone, poor and with limited English skills. Some, in fact, don’t even speak Spanish, but different indigenous languages of Central and South America.
"So many of these women don’t want to have abortions, but feel so isolated and pressured into having them," she explained. "I want to be there to give them a hand."
Melissa Ohden of Kansas City, Mo., 35, was told at age 14 that she had survived a saline abortion. She regularly speaks to pro-life groups and oversees a website for abortion survivors, TheAbortionSurvivors.com.
"It was absolutely devastating; I had to go through the whole grieving process," recalled Ohden about learning of the abortion attempt from her adoptive parents. "I felt guilty for surviving, for being healthy."
She said she also felt shame because "the world in which we live says abortion is someone’s right to do."
It was lonely, she added. It wasn’t until she heard the testimony of another abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen, that she realized that there were others who had survived abortions as well. She went public with her story in 2007 and is contacted once or twice a week through her website by other abortion survivors.
Ohden launched her website in conjunction with the release of the 2011 movie October Baby, a Christian-themed movie that tells the story of a young woman who discovers that she survived an abortion. (Ohden met the producers of the film at a pro-life event. They were amazed to hear her story.)
Ohden is a Catholic convert, is married and has a 5-year-old daughter "who was born in the hospital where my life was supposed to end."
She said she is no longer angry with her birth mother for trying to abort her and is grateful to her adoptive parents for giving her a new start in life. She remarked, "I grew up in a home knowing I was loved. I’ve also come to realize what a gift my life is."
Christina Martin has been a dedicated pro-life activist for eight years. She belonged to Justice House of Prayer in Washington, whose members fast and pray for the end of abortion; she worked for the pro-life group Bound4Life as well. She currently works at a crisis-pregnancy center in Middletown, Conn. She is black and sensitive to the disproportionately high rate of abortion in the black community; consequently, she is active with the National Black Pro-Life Coalition. She also has a pro-life blog: http://liveactionnews.org/author/christina-martin/.
Yet, a decade ago, Martin was ambivalent about abortion and never envisioned herself dedicating her life to saving the unborn. Her life’s mission changed, however, when her mother revealed to her that she had narrowly escaped abortion herself.
Her mother was pregnant out of wedlock and felt pressured to have an abortion. She went to a hospital in Hartford, Conn., to procure one. While in her hospital gown, waiting in a hallway for her turn with the abortionist, a janitor — "an elderly African-American woman" — approached her and asked if she wanted her child. Martin’s mother said, "Yes," and the woman responded, "God will give you the strength to have this baby."
In an instant, the woman was gone, and it was Martin’s mother’s turn to see the abortionist. She told him she had changed her mind, and an angry argument ensued. "My mother thought he was afraid that if she walked out other women would and he’d lose business," Martin explained.
Martin’s mother left with her baby 31 years ago. Her parents married, but divorced when she was 2. She spoke to her father about the near abortion, but he said he didn’t remember it. "I think he did," Martin said, "but he felt uncomfortable talking about it."
Her mother has never again seen the janitor who helped to save her child. She believes she was an angel sent by God in human form.
After hearing the tale of her rescue, Martin knew she had a mission: "It changed my heart. I had been rescued by God. He saved me; I felt loved by him. I began to understand how he wanted me to live and that he wanted me to help other babies to live."
Her work on behalf of life is to give women "an 11th-hour option my mother once had." She continued, "I tell these women, ‘I know you need help and feel alone. God can help you.’"
Jim Graves writes from
Newport Beach, California.