I Survived an Abortion So When Did My Life Begin? Before, During or After Birth?

Opinion   Melissa Ohden   Apr 23, 2014   |   11:52AM    Washington, DC

In an interview in March with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, Fusion TV’s Jorge Ramos asked Richards the question of all questions, “When does life start? When does a human being become a human being?” I’ve personally wanted to ask her that question, and specifically, about when she thought my life began (before, during or after I survived the failed abortion), for a long time!

After she initially avoided Ramos’ question, not once, but twice, by discussing Planned Parenthood’s ‘theme’ of making sure “women have all their options for health care,” Ramos continued to question her.

melissaohden9“Why would it be so controversial for you to say when you think life starts?” he asked her.

“I don’t know that it’s controversial,” Richards finally replied. “I don’t know that it’s really relevant to the conversation. For me, I’m a mother of three children; for me, life began when I delivered them.”

I know I’m late to the game in blogging about this interview and Cecile Richard’s response, so I’m sure I’m not the first writer to insert my long, exasperated sigh here. “SIGH!”

Although her response certainly fits with the continued Planned Parenthood, pro-choice rhetoric that life begins at a personally chosen point in time, not at conception, that abortion is only dealing with the removal of a clump of tissue or a blob of cells, to hear her statement about the lives of her own children is gut-wrenching.

Like Mrs. Richards, I’m the mother of three children. One who is almost six, one who is in Heaven, and one who is nearly six months gestation in the womb.  In every one of my children’s lives, I have looked upon their conception and development with awe and respect, not only because I’m pro-life, but because I recognize their humanity, their vulnerability yet amazing strength, and their uniqueness, from the moment they were conceived.

Just the other day, I burst out laughing at lunch with my husband because the daughter that I am carrying currently had engaged in a set of kicks and punches that were her strongest yet, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her amazing strength and how it felt.  I will never tire of all of the movements that you are blessed to experience during pregnancy.  If their lives didn’t begin until she delivered them, I’m not sure how Cecile Richards described such instances with her own children as she carried them.

Just a couple of weeks ago, our oldest daughter attended our 20-week ultrasound with us.  As the technician showed the various parts of her sister to us, the look on Olivia’s face was memorable.  She has known all along that her sister is alive and developing in the womb, not a day has gone by in this pregnancy that Olivia hasn’t hugged her sister or chatted with her through my belly, but it was beautiful to see just how exciting it was for her to see her firsthand.  Our youngest daughter did not suddenly become a life during this ultrasound, but she became even more palpable to all of us, especially Olivia.  Mrs. Richards’ statement about when life begins makes me wonder how her children experienced the development of their siblings during her pregnancies with them and how she described them accordingly.

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Just a couple of months ago, I spoke at eleven high schools in Ontario, Canada, and during my talks, I shared an ultrasound photo of our youngest daughter.  At the time the ultrasound took place, she was just 13 weeks and 4 days gestation, and the photo captured her sucking her thumb.  Inevitably, at every single high school that I spoke at, whether the students were pro-life or pro-choice, they let out sighs of ‘awww’ and even applause at the photo.  Whether pro-life or pro-choice, those students recognized the humanity of our daughter and even rejoiced along with us.

I will likely never know if Cecile Richard’s statement about when life begins was her honest belief or a well-stated response for the good of her organization and the pro-choice establishment, but what I do know is this:  her statement is not reflective of most Americans, as is evidenced by my experiences within my home, the medical community serving me during this pregnancy, and the students that I spoke to recently, in addition to thousands of others that I have encountered thus far in this pregnancy.  Although statements like the one Mrs. Richards made makes me sigh in initial exasperation, what it reminds me of is two-fold:  1) The truth about life is so very clear, and science and technology like ultrasound continue to communicate this truth.  2) It is up to each and every one of us to confront statements like the one Cecile Richards gave and the underlying beliefs that lead to such statements, with truth and love, no matter how absurd they may seem to as pro-lifers.  Every moment, every experience, even every mis-statement, is an opportunity to share the truth about life.