Communications Department

The Power of 40: Reflections on Four Decades of Roe

Jan 15, 2013 | 01-Winter 2013 NRL News

NRLNewsLogowebNRL News | Page 5
Winter 2013
Volume 40 | Issue 1


The Power of 40: Reflections on Four Decades of Roe

By Melissa Ohden

The 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is rapidly approaching. As a survivor of an attempted abortion in 1977, I live every day of my life with an acute awareness of abortion–how I was meant to die and how just in the United States alone over 55 million children just like me did not survive.

But there are two days out of the year in particular that raise a heightened level of distress in me: my birthday, and the anniversary date of Roe. The first is the day that I was supposed to die. The second is the day that made possible that very death sentence.

Yet as we approach Roe’s 40th anniversary, there is both pain and promise for me in acknowledging this solemn day and all that it has done in my life, to our nation, and to our world. I can easily understand how “promise” would sound more than a little strange. But let me explain by beginning with the more obvious–the pain.

The Pain

On January 23, 2013, as a nation and as a Movement, we will be solemnly acknowledging the four decades of Roe. Forty years of pain and devastation; over 55 million lives lost; hundreds of millions of lives forever changed; our culture, our nation, forever altered.

Every day when I awaken, the first words that I speak are prayers of thanksgiving for being alive yet another day and for being alive, period. The last words that I speak each night are prayers of thanksgiving for the day, regardless of the circumstances of it, along with prayers for the women and men who are considering abortion, who are so much like my biological parents, and the children, who are so much like me, whose lives hang in the balance. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at myself in the mirror and think about what a miracle it is that I’m alive. Yet mixed in with the prayers of thanksgiving and the awe of gratitude there is always the pain.

As a mother, I have to look at our little girl each day knowing that she never would have existed if my biological mother’s abortion had ended my life 35 years ago like it was supposed to. There is nothing more painful for me than to face this reality every day. As a wife, I have to look at my husband and know that he never would have had a wife. And as I’ve learned through my search for and contact with my biological family over the past 16 years, the pain and devastation has affected us all, and left an impact on us for generations.

Of course it isn’t just one family that’s been forever altered by abortion: whether we are aware of it or not, everyone in our nation and in our world has been touched. And because of Roe (and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton), over 3,000 children will lose their lives today. Every day I live with that awareness, that knowledge, and the pain. Once the awareness that I survived when tens of millions of children died was the source of shame, embarrassment, and even guilt.

And while the pain remains my constant companion, it is accompanied by something far stronger: the motivation to do something about it–to play a small role in ending abortion just as the ripple effect of abortion in my family was stopped when we brought forgiveness, healing, and openness to our experiences. Through the efforts of the ministry that I founded in 2012, the Abortion Survivors Network (ASN), there is now both a knowledge of the prevalence of abortion survivors and the incidence of “failed” abortions. As survivors we are able to put a visible face to what for 40 years has been simply seen as a “woman’s choice” and a “right.”

The Promise

As we approach January 23, we first reflect upon 40 years that have been full of great trial for the right to life movement. Yet within that trial, there has also been great promise sown that we are now reaping. National Right to Life is instrumental in public policy, legislation, and elections. Other ministries have united individuals and groups in prayer and fasting; others reach out in support to workers in the abortion industry; still other individuals and groups reach out to, and support, women and men contemplating abortion. There have been amazing efforts in protecting and respecting life that have been initiated and made a great impact throughout the past 40 years. And although great strides have been made throughout each of the past four decades, I believe that the increased incidence of highly effective efforts in recent years clearly points to the promise, the restoration that is coming on the heels of 40 years of legalized abortion.

As we approach this solemn anniversary, many of us are constantly aware of the powerful significance of 40. Whether days, months, or years, a 40-something period has biblically signified a period of testing or trial, and ended with a period of restoration, revival, or renewal. Whether it be Moses’ face shining after 40 days on the mountain or Elijah hearing the voice of God after going 40 days to Mount Horeb, we see the major changes and transformations that have taken place after a period of 40 (days, months, years). I know that I’m not alone in praying for a revival of a restored respect for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. And knowing what I know about the significance of the number 40, and looking around at all that is happening in our world and in the Movement today, I believe that the change we have been waiting for is coming–that the renewal has started.

Although it doesn’t directly reference the number 40, I believe it’s important to note that as we approach 40 years of legalized abortion in the U.S., there is now a knowledge of abortion, its devastating consequences on women, men, and families–emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually–that has been proven by empirically based research and supported by the courageous experiences and testimony of men and women from groups like Silent No More.

Since 2007, I have come into contact with almost 100 other abortion survivors. And as ASN provides support and opportunities for both personal healing and growth for survivors, I have no doubt that the visibility of survivors will continue to grow greatly both in the Movement and in the larger society. All of these circumstances, I believe, are a part of the revival, the restoration that is occurring as we approach the significant anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Abortion and its consequences, abortion and its victims are known and visible.

And as William Wilberforce so poignantly stated, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”