Melissa Ohden was not supposed to survive.
The now 42-year-old Missourian should have been killed in a late-term abortion at the hands of her own grandmother, but she did not.
Ohden lived and a family adopted her, but, for decades, neither she nor her birth mother knew exactly what had happened the day of her birth.
Recently, she and her birth mother, Ruth, told their story to The Sun. They shared about heartbreak, lies, secrets, a seemingly hopeless search and finally reunification.
When Ruth was 19 and pregnant, she was pressured by her mother, a nurse, into aborting Melissa. Ruth said she did not want the abortion, but her mother insisted. Afterward, Ruth was told that the abortion had been successful and her baby was discarded as “medical waste.” For many years, she did not know that Melissa had survived.
Ohden said, “I had been ‘laid aside’ but two nurses took it into their hands to save me and I was taken to neo-natal intensive care where amazingly I survived.”
A miracle baby, Ohden was adopted into a loving home. She said her parents were open with her about the fact that she was adopted, but she did not learn that she had survived an abortion until she was 14.
“After finding out, I internalized my pain and let everyone think I was fine, but inside I was devastated,” she remembered. “I struggled in a huge way and started drinking. I couldn’t control the very way I came into the world so I freaked out.”
When she was 19, she began searching for her birth parents. Ohden told The Sun that more than a decade went by before she found her birth father. Not long afterward, however, she said she learned that he had died.
Then, in 2013, Ohden said she received a call from her biological mother’s cousin. That connection eventually linked the mother and daughter together.
Ruth did not know about her daughter’s existence until 2007.
“The day I heard that Melissa had survived the abortion my mother had performed on me was a Sunday in August 2007,” she told the news outlet. “My twin sister, Mary, called in the afternoon. I could tell it was going to be a serious conversation, so I went to the bedroom. Mary told me that the child I had was alive. My first thought was: what a cruel joke to play on your twin sister.”
Ruth and her daughter began to communicate through emails and letters after 2013.
“We got to know each other gradually and I learned she had cut ties with her mother. In turn I told her about my parents, husband Ryan, 44, and children, Olivia and Ava,” Ohden said.
Three years later, they finally decided to meet at the zoo.
“As soon as we saw each other we just hugged and hugged,” Ohden remembered. “She said, ‘I never got to hold you.’ Now we see each other all the time.”
Ruth said they had fun comparing their physical similarities that day, including similar noses and smiles.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve discovered we share much more than physical characteristics,” she said. “We are both passionate and driven; we tend to throw ourselves completely into whatever project we are working on. We are both empathetic, spending a lot of time worrying about others.”
Ohden said they still have missing pieces in their stories, but they have found joy and healing together.
“There are still unanswered questions for us both, but what we do know is that although I was the intended victim in that abortion, she was a secondary victim. And we both continue to choose to rise above being victimized. We choose to thrive. To live. To love. To forgive. To give to this world,” she said.
Today, Ohden is a sought-after speaker and pro-life advocate. She runs the Abortion Survivors’ Network, which connects people who have survived abortions.