Missouri-based network connects abortion survivors worldwide

From left to right, social worker Kara West of the Abortion Survivors Network joins abortion survivors Jennifer Milbourn, Karen Causey, Kim Marvin, Delana Brooks, Amy Miles and Denisha Workizer as they share a moment of laughter at the organization’s annual retreat in 2022. The Missouri-based organization is the world's only nonprofit dedicated to serving abortion survivors. (OSV News photo/courtesy Abortion Survivors Network)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (OSV News) ─ Melissa Ohden said she never planned to start an organization.

Ohden, who joined the Catholic Church in 2014, belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gladstone, Missouri. She leads the Abortion Survivors Network (ASN), the world's only organization dedicated to providing "a safe place for (abortion) survivors to finally share their story, be themselves, be vulnerable, to finally heal."

Ohden first became involved with pro-life ministry in 2007, sharing her own story of having survived a saline infusion abortion in 1977 at 31 weeks.

As she shared her story at various events, other abortion survivors began asking her for help.

For years, Ohden connected survivors with other survivors, guided them to counselors, helped them write their testimonies and invited them to policy groups. Mostly though, she just helped survivors, including Kim Marvin of Kirkland, Washington, heal from the emotional and spiritual wounds they suffer as a result of the abortion.

Born in 1961, Marvin's mother sought the services of an OB-GYN in Seattle whose clientele consisted mostly of patients seeking illegal abortions (abortion was illegal in any state until 1967) and underwent a saline injection abortion when Marvin was around two months gestation.

About 10 years ago, Marvin tracked down Abby Johnson, a former abortion industry worker whose story is told in the 2019 movie "Unplanned," after a pro-life event and begged her for the name of someone with whom she could talk. Johnson gave Marvin Ohden's contact information.

Marvin's first phone call to Ohden lasted nearly two hours. Ohden encouraged Marvin to write her story.

Meanwhile, Ohden was serving other abortion survivors and praying for all of them, including Marvin. In 2019, Ohden said she realized God had been calling her to a ministry for abortion survivors all along and officially started ASN with one specific purpose.

"My long-term vision would be for ASN to be so well-known and understood -- not just in the pro-life movement, but in our culture -- that survivors and families know that they're not alone and that they have a place to go to for healing and hope."

"Folks like me," she continued, "and people like my biological mother deserve to know that they're not alone, and they deserve to have their lives transformed. . . . So, that's what I'm in the business of doing now -- serving these abortion survivors with community support and healing support."

ASN organizes and facilitates confidential healing groups using a curriculum she wrote specifically for abortion survivors. In 2020, nine years after the first phone call, Marvin called Ohden and asked to be connected with other survivors.

Now, Marvin serves as the international coordinator for ASN, regularly meeting online with abortion survivors from countries as far away as Germany, Australia and Sri Lanka.

Marvin described meeting other survivors as "a gift from heaven," a gift she would not have experienced had it not been for Ohden's willingness to share her story.

"It's really hard to get this message out because people don't want to hear it," Marvin said. "We have to educate that we exist. That, to me, is the biggest hurdle because I'd say 80 to 90 percent of the population does not know that you can survive an abortion. ... With that statistic, that's an uphill (battle), but it's an opportunity as well."
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Marc and Julie Anderson write for The Leaven, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.



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