Melissa Ohden

Thirty-five years ago, Ohden’s unmarried nineteen-year-old mother was told that termination of her pregnancy was her only option. Pressured by her own family to have an abortion, the young woman’s choice was no choice at all. She underwent a saline infusion abortion and returned to St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, 5 days later to deliver her dead baby.

They believed that the baby girl was dead when she was delivered at St. Luke’s hospital on August 29, 1977, and they would have disposed of her, except that a nurse heard her “weak grunting noises” and made a decision that she legally did not have to make. She decided to give her care.

The 2-lb., 14-oz. baby girl was estimated to be 31 weeks’ gestational age, which meant that her mother was 8 months pregnant when she underwent the saline abortion. Ohden stopped to allow the audience a moment to let out a collective gasp. “Yes, that should break our hearts,” she said, “but it should break our hearts whether a baby is 31 weeks or only 31 days old!”

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