It was a night of gasps, enlightenment, and hope.  When Melissa Ohden shares her incredible story of survival, it literally takes the breath away from those listening.  This happened over and over again Tuesday night at Vitae Foundation’s Lake of the Ozarks event in Lake Ozark.

Before Ohden shared her story of surviving a saline-infused abortion at 31-weeks’ gestation, Vitae President Rob Rysavy also elicited gasps from the 220 people in attendance.  He reminded them just one day after the 16thanniversary of September 11, the worst terrorist attack on American soil, that another 911 exists every day.

“Today was September 11 in the womb in the United States.  Every day since 1973, it’s been September 11th in the womb.  It’s the greatest human rights tragedy that has ever confronted humanity,” Rysavy shared with the Vitae audience at Lodge of the Four Seasons.

Over 3,000 babies are lost to abortion each day in this country.

In the 25 years since Vitae has existed, it has created the world’s largest knowledgebase to better understand and reach women who are considering making that terrible decision.  This information is being shared with almost 300 Pregnancy Help Centers (PHCs), and those numbers are growing daily.

Senior Market Director Stacey Kromer explained that Vitae goes into the most abortion prone communities in the country because “we have to!”  Even on Sunday, abortions are being performed and are even discounted.  There is concern that abortions will rise because of the hurricanes.  In fact, Whole Woman’s Health in Houston is offering free abortions to women affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Kromer highlighted Vitae’s new innovative portal that will give its Marketing and Research Application Department an overall view of the activity of its collaborating centers.  The dashboard allows Vitae to keep track of a variety of analytics, like client visits, client demographics and outcomes.

“Each center will have its own dashboard so they can monitor their own campaigns.  The dashboard also offers PHCs the ability to access Vitae’s research documents, articles and marketing data on what’s working for other PHCs,” Kromer explained.

The keynote speaker expressed her first-hand knowledge of Vitae’s work since she is also a Vitae board member.

“Vitae is doing groundbreaking, effective work!” Ohden stated at the beginning of her address.  “Pregnancy centers are usually the best kept secret in town, and I don’t want it to be that way.  Everyone should know where women can get life-saving, life-transforming help.  That is the work that Vitae is doing, spreading that pro-life message so pregnancy centers are not the best kept secret in town.”

If only there had been a Vitae 40 years ago when Ohden’s birth mother was pregnant with her.  The story of Melissa’s birth did not come to light in Melissa’s own life until she was 14.  She knew she was adopted, but had no idea that she had been aborted and survived.

“God had other plans for me,” Ohden shared.  “There’s a study that states 64 percent of women who abort feel pressured to abort their unborn child.  I believe my birth mother was one of those 64 percent.”

A saline-infused abortion was forced upon Melissa’s birth mother.  A decade of digging for the truth of what happened at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa led her to unbelievable twists and turns.  The person forcing the birth mother to abort was, in fact, Melissa’s birth grandmother.  This grandmother had a front-row seat to the abortion as one of the nurses present.  Then, when the abortion didn’t kill Melissa, the grandmother demanded she be left to die.

“There were nurses on staff who defied my grandmother’s orders.  Evidently one of the nurses came rushing into the NICU shouting, ‘I’m cleaning this up.  That darn doctor messed up.  She just kept gasping for breath, and I couldn’t just let her die.'”

Scalded at birth, and left to soak in that saline solution for days, there wasn’t much hope for her survival.  There were health issues early on, including seizures, but today the Founder of the Abortion Survivors Network has no health issues.

“My parents met me with tubes everywhere, but they fell in love with me then,” Ohden stated.  “Every child deserves to have someone fall in love with them.  Abortion robs them of that!”

While there were many twists and turns along the way, with persistence Ohden would end up meeting her birth mother and found out she had no knowledge of Melissa’s survival.  Six months after she sent her birth father a letter, he passed away.  Today she has relationships with family members on her birth father’s side, including her grandfather.  Ohden has forgiven her birth mother and grandmother along the way.

FullSizeRenderOhden has written about her extraordinary journey from anger and shame to faith and forgiveness in her memoir, “You Carried Me.”  (Plough Publishing House,

Ohden considers Vitae one of the biggest, most effective leaders in the pro-life movement.  “It used to be kind of a secret, but it’s not a secret anymore.  People need to know this research exists, and it is out there.  We’re willing to share it with them, in the hopes that we not only reach women in need and save their lives and the lives of their children, but that we also restore a culture of life,” Ohden stated.

Rysavy thanked the Vitae audience for their commitment to life and the Vitae mission.  “Your presence here tonight is going to make a difference across this country.  We are grateful and could not do this work without you.”

If you would like to help Vitae with its mission of using digital media messages to reach women on the verge of abortion, please donate today.