The Irish Referendum on abortion was a blow to our pro-life aspirations but do the people who voted realise where that result might lead us? An inspirational story on BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday this week follows the publication of a book by Melissa Ohden – a woman who survived an abortion in the US. In 1977 her 19 year old, 8 month pregnant, mother was given a saline infusion abortion which would normally kill the baby in 5 days. Melissa was born barely alive and effectively discarded in toxic waste but rescued by a nurse who heard slight noises. Whilst her story outlines how babies were killed in the womb in the US in 1977 (they use different methods these days), and what happened when they were born alive, the story is actually an uplifting one. It is about how Melissa survived against the odds and became a healthy, successful woman. It is also about the relationship she now has with her birth mother who had never wanted the abortion in the first place.
After the referendum result Bishop Leahey of Limerick spoke of the compassion that divides people on the issue of abortion – the compassion for the mother and the compassion for the unborn child – and compassion too should guide our judgement of others who see things differently to ourselves. We should follow the example of Melissa Ohden in her compassion and forgiveness for the grandmother nurse who wanted the abortion, participated in it, and wanted the living baby left to die.
But as David Alton says: Love them both holds the key to making progress. This must always mean contesting the idea that a loving response can ever involve ending another’s life. Providing practical alternatives must always accompany efforts to challenge laws and attitudes.
You can see the full story on youtube, Testimony of Melissa Ohden, abortion survivor