An Abortion Survivor Wants to Ask You a Question…

“Many children, more than you might think, actually survive failed abortions and are born alive. I know because I’m one of them.”

Those are the opening words of a powerful new pro-life ad from Susan B. Anthony List.

Melissa Ohden is an abortion survivor whose life was saved by a nurse who heard her crying. She’s now a mother with a daughter of her own.

I have often wondered how those who support abortion “rights” justify their views when faced with a living, breathing survivor of “choice.” The words “cognitive dissonance,” come to mind.

Yet this is what our President and his party support. In fact, as the ad reminds us, President Obama goes even further: “When he was in the Illinois state Senate, Barack Obama voted to deny basic constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion – not once, but four times.”

This is what they call “protecting women’s rights.” Could the president say that to Melissa Ohden with a straight face? Or is such an answer above his pay grade? I wonder.

Ohden concludes with a simple, but poignant question: “Is this the kind of leadership that will move us forward, that would discard the weakest among us? How will you answer?”

I hope in the coming months someone will get a chance to ask the President.

Here’s the whole video:

Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. The views expressed here are his own.

  • Molly

    I guess I just don’t understand why abortion is even a political issue. Abortion, which is a medical procedure, should stay, like all other medical procedures, confidential, and be a personal decision between a doctor and a patient. Period.

    I know Catholics like to argue that it is killing (and it is–I don’t deny that), and that one of the Commandments is ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’. Unfortunately, that is a commandment given (supposedly) by a God whom I do not believe in to followers of a religion that I don’t follow, and since there is a separation of church and state in this country, I’d like to believe that I won’t be subjected to laws that were developed from a religious base.

    Further, if you were to somehow criminalize abortion and prevent people (who, again, don’t think the way that you do) from gaining access to abortion-minimizing methods such as birth control, what good purpose would that serve? People wouldn’t stop having abortions (they never, ever will), they would simply obtain them illegally. So a woman has an abortion. Then what. She’s arrested? Put through the system? Maybe she even gets put in prison for that. But that baby is still dead, and people are still having abortions, and we have acheived nothing and wasted a lot of time and money. If you think that criminalizing abortion will make people think twice about having sex or otherwise ending up pregnant in the first place, think again, and think about things like capital punishment and religiously-touted abstinence programs (which are unsuccessful, largely because teenagers like doin’ it) which do nothing to prevent violent crime or stop people from having pre-marital sex respectively.

    I would also encourage anyone who thinks that criminalizing abortion and contraception do some reading up on Nicolae Ceaușescu and the real injustice done to children and babies because of him.

    Abortion is a sad, sad thing, yes, but I know several people who have had them because they believed it was BETTER for the child. I’m sure nearly all of your have put an old pet down (and I am not drawing a comparison between dogs and babies) because you didn’t want to see someone you loved suffer. Remeber that there is mercy in death, however it comes.

    I will refrain from ranting about how insulting it is to have anyone, be it a politician, a clergyman, or Catholic blogger, who doesn’t have a uterus or the ability to ovulate, menstruate, birth a child, or breastfeed think that they have even a modicum of say in what I do in my own private life.

    • Stephen White

      Molly, why is it OK for a mother to have a doctor kill her unborn child but not OK to have a docter kill her toddler? (Or is it OK?) How is one a “medical procedure” and the other one not? You don’t have the be religions, let alone Catholic, to see the inconsistancy in that. Then again–and I say this in all seriousness–you seem to argue that there is little difference between killing a child and killing a dog. You don’t need a uterus to find such comaprisons deeply troubling and dangerously dehumanizing. BTW, how is it “private” for one person to hire another person to kill a third person?

    • Mara

      Molly, finally a woman speaks up. Thank-you! A man will never understand how degrading it is for a woman to be told that her body is not her own, that her fetus is not her own, that her decisions are not her own, that her future is not her own. Stephens’ response to your comment simply shows how much he doesn’t get it. Please keep commenting on this site even if only one person has a moment and says “I get it now.”

    • faith & reason

      Molly, you don’t understand why abortion is a political issue and one must have a uterus, etc. to have a modicum of say in what you ‘do in your private life’——I have a uterus, had menses, and could have chosen to breastfeed, am I allowed a say in abortion? Ironically, it was 9 MEN who decided that ALL women have the right to ‘get rid of’ any embryo or fetus on demand, meaning for any reason and in the case of partial birth abortion, at any time in the pregnancy. It is STILL 40 years later, an important dividing political issue because the American people have never had a say in it through the democratic process, ever. Even though there is no scientific evidence, at all, that can define, without a doubt, when life begins. Add to that, medically, the truth that abortion and contraception are not even medical conditions. That pregnancy has never been, is not and will never be a ‘disease’ or ‘illness’. It is no wonder that for 40 years, the majority of America believe as you say you do, that abortion is murder. Only they have enough integrity to understand that murder is wrong and can look at the broader societal impact of abortion on American life, society and women’s place in our country. 40 years of denial that our ‘right’ to do with our bodies as we decide regardless of the fact that abortion does not only affect women. Our ‘uterus’ became creative through a man, the father, the child aborted has 4 grandparents, maybe uncles, aunts and cousins and maybe even siblings. It does not just affect the woman’s body as feminists and 9 men in black robes have decided for all women and the whole nation. It is totally dismissed that it affects the baby aborted and all connected to him or her by parental or family ties. All these facts are not from a religious point of view at all. So I am insulted that because I do not agree with abortion on demand it is faith-based only. Further, your statement of being insulted that a man has any opinion on abortion is worse than insulting, it is so obviously sexist. I find that statement as a woman watching the sexist male world change in many good ways, ironic and sad. I found this post and video very powerful in proving the primary reality of abortion – one precious life, unique person less in the world. Have you no opinion on the video at all? Or are you just angry to see the truth of abortion and specifically the disgusting abomination of partial birth abortion gone wrong? I keep hearing from my Dem & Liberal friends that a nation is judged on it’s treatment of it’s most vulnerable. If that is true, America fails miserably no matter how many social justice programs are provided to the living poor. At least, the living poor were given a chance at their most vulnerable, to be birthed.

  • Robert

    The president has said he wouldn’t want his daughters “punished” with a baby. Pro-choicers probably see some sort of weird, warped, cosmic karma in this story — a punishment is now punished with her own punishment (that’s “a baby has now grown up to have her own baby,” for you non-nut jobs). Sad. And scary.

  • Antonio A. Badilla


    Your story should be enough for anyone to stop and think the horror of abortion. Instead, you get all sorts of excuses as to why murder is somehow O.K.
    The Second Vatican Council would never have called abortion an “abominable” crime if it weren’t so. In EWTN, I saw another survivor of an abortion and she even forgave her “mother” for what she tried to do to her.
    I cringe when I hear people write about abortion “rights” as if murder were a right. I find consolation in knowing that procured abortion has been condemned since the days of the early church in The Didache, in the moral teachings of the Church, in Evangelium Vitae, in the Second Vatican Council, and on different occasions by the present Bishop of Rome.
    Someone here wrote of “blindness.” How ironic. I think the defenders of the murder of the most defenseless of human beings are the ones who are blind and spiritual willful blindness can indeed be very destructive of the integrity of any human being who is recalcitrant on it. The spiritual masters have warned us about such blindness in their writings. God bless you and I’m glad you are alive!
    And yes, Obama voted for partial birth abortion and even went as far as defending abortion claiming that he could not possibly “force” his daughters to have a child if they got pregnant, Yes, the “uniter” told the entire nation how he felt on this issue and now that we call him on it, he has all these defenders trying to justify the indefensible, and to add insult to injury, they do it on a Catholic site.

  • John

    Also, I would love to see some statistics on “Many children, more than you might think, actually survive failed abortions and are born alive,” that have been published since say the year 2000 or so. The only data I saw was from the 1970’s and things have changed a lot in both the law and medicine since then.

    Even then we are talking about less than .001% according to the National Institute of Health findings.

    Not that you should ever minimize deaths, but seriously folks, many more people commit suicide every day in our nation (one of those few sins that Catholics consider unforgivable) and we don’t seem to address that at all. So, why the attention to one group instead of another? Politics should not overwrite our sense of morality.

    • Smiles

      Even if it were 1 single solitary person who survived an attempted abortion, wouldn’t they be worth saving?

  • John

    It seems clear from reports on both the fetal/perinatal mortality rates and the abortion statistics that the biggest contributing factors to the problem are maternal preconception health, infection, income, access to quality health care, stress and racism, and cultural factors.

    So why then are we casting the party which seeks to expand healthcare and health knowledge, reduce income inequality, address ongoing issues of racism as the villain in this piece?

    • Stephen White

      The number one cause of procured abortion is the procuring an abortion. Reducing abortions is a noble goal and incompatible with defense of the abortion license. Democrats supporting the expansion of medical coverage as a means to reduce abortion–a very worthy goal–while simultaneously insisting that abortion is a fundamental right is, to be precise, absurd.

      • John

        There is nothing inconsistent about that at all. Abortion rights are the law of the land as it stands today.

        You can choose to prevent abortion without changing the law of the land, respecting the free choice of women, or you can choose to prevent abortion by challenging the law of the land and taking away the choice of women. They are both options.

        The fundamental nature of the free choice dilemma presented in the Bible is that men and women are free to choose evil. If they were not, the basic concept of accountability and sin would be meaningless. Jesus did not change the behavior of the Roman/Jewish people by writing a new Roman code of law which mandated all citizens could no longer (insert any number of evils here). He changed thier behavior through education and guidance. Then the people chose for themselves to make changes in the way they live their lives.

        • Stephen White

          If I told you that you could reduce theft by reducing poverty, you’d probably agree. But what if I told you that we should also eliminate laws against theft and replace them with laws positing the fundamental right to theft? Would you go for that?

          • john

            Which brings me to my favorite, and quintessentially Catholic musical, Les Miserables. If a person is hungry homeless and miserable, because his community has completely failed in its obligation to care for each and every person and to make a special exception for the destitute (basic catholic teaching), and he steals bread in a moment of desperation, no I do not believe that person should be treated as a criminal. Whether you call that a right to eat or a right to survive, or just treat it as an affirmative defense to otherwise criminal conduct doesn’t really matter. The fact is, we are morally responsible for our fellow men and women and we cannot judge people who make poor decisions in terrible situations that we created.

          • Stephen White

            John: You’re right that under extreme circumstances, the right to sustencance trumps the natural, but limited right to private property. Taking bread in such a case isn’t “justified stealing,” it’s simply not stealing at all. But we’re not talking about taking someone else’s bread, are we? In the case of abortion, we’re talking about taking someone else’s life. Intentionally killing an innocent human being is always and everywhere wrong. It is never justifiable. As for judging others, we can’t judge souls, but we *can* judge actions, beginning with our own–otherwise we wouldn’t be able to say the starving bread taker did nothing wrong, or that the man who neglected his starving neighbor did wrong. “Innocent” is just as much a judgment as “guilty.”

      • Francis

        Keep those blinders on! Don’t look at the causes, just at the effect. If we look at the causes, we might feel some obligation to those in need of assistance. Instead, just keep hammering away at the legal issues.

      • Braden

        Lol you must be kidding, right? Only a child would seriously think that the issue of abortion is as simple as people deciding to have an abortion. Spend some time in a women’s crisis pregnancy center and get a dose of reality.

        • Stephen White

          @Braden: No, nothing to “lol” about here. I actually find the choice to have an abortion understandable in some sense, even if it is never justifiable. Sometimes doing the right thing is much harder–at least in the short run–than doing the wrong thing. That’s true of small choices and I it is undoubtedly even more so for a choice as weighty as this. The choice to have an abortion is a horrible, gut-wrenching, life-ending choice. Would it be better if no woman ever felt compelled to face that choice? Absolutely. Would it be better if there were more people willing to walk with women and support them as they considered this terrible choice? Absolutely. But can “health, infection, income, access to quality health care, stress and racism, and cultural factors” ever change the fact that a choice must still be made? Absolutely not. It doesn’t diminish the difficulty of the choice to suggest that a choice still exists…even clear choices can be dreadfully hard to make.

          • Braden

            Stephen–what is the number one cause of murder? By your definition, the number one cause of murder is murder. As you can see, such circular arguments don’t really get us very far.

          • Stephen White

            @Braden: No, the cause of all murders is the *choice* to murder. Killing someone accidentally isn’t murder. Murder involves a choice. That’s what makes it murder. So I could say that murder is caused by anger or greed or any number of bad things that might incline someone to murder. While those things might be bad, they’re not illegal, because the circumstances that give someone a motive to kill might be beyond their control; the *choice* to kill is not.

            Like I suggested above: If I told you that you could reduce a certain crime–let’s use your example of murder–by reducing poverty, you might well agree. But if I told you that our plan to reducing murder was compatible with a campaign to eliminate laws against murder and replace them with laws positing the fundamental right to murder, you might well question how serious I was about preventing murder. And you’d be right to do so.

  • Michael

    Stephen-if you are a fellow at an ethics center, don’t you think you should not be spreading political advertising that is blatantly false? Illinois has had a law since 1975 providing protection for babies born alive from an abortion. When specifically did Obama work to overturn this law? This ad is nonsensical.

    • Stephen White

      Michael: I’m glad you brought up the question of the Illinois law. The law Obama opposed was intended to close a loophole in the 1975 law, namely, that some infants born alive as the result of an abortion were not afforded protection. The law Obama opposed was intended to close the loophole. Here’s a post from National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru explaining this in more detail:

      For what it’s worth–and as Ponnuru points out–the language Obama opposed because it “threatened Roe” was this: “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.”

      Now, I have a question for you. What was “blatantly false” in the SBA List ad?

      • Michael

        Stephen-that law already existed. “(2) (a) No abortion shall be performed or induced when the fetus is viable unless there is in attendance a physician other than the physician performing or inducing the abortion who shall take control of and provide immediate medical care for any child born alive as a result of the abortion. This requirement shall not apply when, in the medical judgment of the physician performing or inducing the abortion based on the particular facts of the case before him, there exists a medical emergency; in such a case, the physician shall describe the basis of this judgment on the form prescribed by Section 10 of this Act. Any physician who intentionally performs or induces such an abortion and who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly fails to arrange for the attendance of such a second physician in violation of Section 6(2)(a) commits a Class 3 felony.” So when SBA List claims that “When he was in the Illinois state Senate, Barack Obama voted to deny basic constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion – not once, but four times,” that is BLATANTLY FALSE.

        • Stephen White

          Were there any infants born alive after an attempted abortion that were not protected under existing Illinois law prior to Obama’s voting against the BAIPA? Yes.

          This is why (again, citing Ponnuru): “Nurse Jill Stanek said that at her hospital ‘abortions’ were repeatedly performed by inducing the live birth of a pre-viable fetus and then leaving it to die. When she made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken.”

          So SBA’s claim is demonstably true. Which is, perhaps why NARAL declined to oppose BAIPA while Obama did.

        • LawDude

          Yes, the language that was proposed and rejected by Obama (and also never approved in earlier and later legislative sessions) does appear, on it’s face to be unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s findings in Roe. v. Wade. Stop blaming Obama for Roe v. Wade. As a legislature he vows to uphold the laws of the United States and the State. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. I get that you don’t like that, but we can’t expect our elected leaders to simply ignore the laws and the constitution.

          • Stephen White

            No one blames Obama for Roe. (If my math is correct, he was 12 when it was written.) Nor do I expect him to ignore it. It is a profoundly unjust law (or “law”) and justice demands that he change it, or, if that’s not immediately within his power, at least work very hard to do so. He has earnestly undertaken to do precisely the opposite, going so far as to deny legal protections to born-alive human beings because he was afraid doing so might undermine the “right” invented by Roe. I blame him for precisely his own actions; that is more than indictment enough.

          • Michael

            If you’re so principled, Stephen, assuredly you and the rest of the gang of writers here are on record as repeatedly repudiating the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. After all, the noted justice wrote that in public service in ANY position except as Supreme Court justice, creators of law are required to follow the law of the land, as decided by the Supreme Court. “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land… There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent, as well as Casey.” President Obama is guilty of following the exact precepts of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, whom was practically universally supported by conservatives and Catholics. There’s not an ounce of critical thinking in this discussion today.

          • Stephen White

            1)This should be obvious, but the role of the President (or of a legislator) with respect to the law is very different from the job of the Supreme Court. They get different Articles in the Constitution and everything. 2)Promising to respect precedent in NO WAY precludes the striking down of precedent. In fact, later in the same testimony, Roberts explicitly describes how a proper understanding of precedent and stare decisis may lead the Court to overturn past decisions, even ones that are “settled law.” I don’t claim to know the heart of C.J. Roberts, but I see nothing in his words that binds him to Roe. Nothing.

    • rita



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