St. Gianna’s daughter, abortion survivor among October pro-life speakers

| September 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, greets Pope Francis at the Festival of Families during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015. Molla is among pro-life leaders speaking at events in the Twin Cities in October. CNS file photo

In 1977, Melissa Ohden survived a failed saline infusion abortion.

“Four days I soaked in that toxic salt solution,” said Ohden in testimony in Washington before a U.S. House of Representatives committee in 2015. “On the fifth day of that procedure, my biological mother, a 19-year-old college student, delivered after her labor was induced. I should have been delivered dead that day as a successful abortion.”

Two nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, where the failed abortion was performed, gave Ohden medical care to survive, according to Ohden’s House testimony. Ohden said she later learned from another nurse there that her medical care was an anomaly; nurses were typically required to leave babies from failed abortions in a formaldehyde bucket.

Ohden is among speakers who will be presenting at pro-life events in the Twin Cities in October, designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as Respect Life Month. Other speakers include a doctor who had performed abortions, a daughter of a saint and a pro-life college leader.

Ohden will present at the WomenSource gala Oct. 6 in Brooklyn Park. Dr. Anthony Levatino, who quit performing abortions in 1985, will speak at the Pro-Life Action Ministries banquet Oct. 9 in St. Paul. Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, a daughter of St. Gianna Molla, will speak at the Gianna Homes Oct. 27 banquet in Minneapolis and an Oct. 28 symposium on end-of-life issues in St. Paul. Maddie Schulte, a 2014 St. John Paul II Champions for Life award winner, will speak at the annual award banquet Oct. 27 in Mendota.

Jean Stolpestad, director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said she encourages Catholics to take advantage of the impressive local lineup of speakers.

“Hearing the beautiful witness of our brothers and sisters vivifies our actions and connects us to each other in the body of Christ,” she said. “It enables us to respond to others with joy and love with a purity of intention.”

Abortion survivor

Ohden started the Abortion Survivors Network in 2012 to provide education on failed abortions and its survivors. The organization also offers support for abortion survivors.

She wrote a book on her experience as a survivor, “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir” (Plough Publishing House, 2017), which details her journey to find her biological parents and offer them forgiveness.

Ohden told the House committee that the abortion was “forced upon her [mother] against her will” and that her maternal grandmother, a nurse, did the delivery. After discovering Ohden’s survival, “she [the grandmother] demanded that I be left to die.”

Ohden’s pro-life work has led to appearances with media outlets including Fox News and Eternal Word Television Network. She holds a master’s degree in social work and works with people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, mental health issues and substance abuse. Her presentation at the WomenSource gala benefits the Anoka-based pregnancy center.

Doctor’s conversion

Levatino, who will speak at the event benefiting St. Paul-based Pro-Life Action Ministries, said he could never look at abortion the same after his daughter Heather’s death in 1984.

A board certified obstetrician-gynecologist, Levatino performed more than 1,200 abortions between 1977 and 1985 in New York and Florida. His abortion procedures included second-trimester saline abortions and dilation and evacuation abortions.

In a 2016 interview with pro-life nonprofit Live Action, Levatino said he continued performing abortions after Heather was killed by a car at age 5. His view started to change, however, after performing a routine dilation and evacuation abortion, when he paused after he had finished.

“I really, for the first time in my career, looked at that pile of baby parts sitting on a table,” Levatino told Live Action. “All I could see was somebody’s son or daughter, and suddenly this was looking really different to me.”

Levatino, who became pro-life in the following months, became even more convinced of his principles while working with high-risk pregnancies in Albany, New York, for almost a decade after he quit performing abortions.

“We hear all the time how abortion, especially late-term abortion, is necessary to save women’s lives. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Levatino told Live Action.

“I saw hundreds of really severe pregnancy complications — cancers, heart disease, intractable diabetes out of control, toxemia pregnancy out of control,” Levatino said. “In those nine years, I saved hundreds of women from life-threatening pregnancies, and I did that by delivering them — by ending their pregnancy by delivery — either [by] induction or cesarean section.”

He never needed to kill a baby in the process, he said.

A saint’s daughter

Gianna Emanuela Molla, who will speak for two Gianna Homes events, has dedicated her life to speaking of her mother, St. Gianna Molla.

An Italian medical doctor, St. Gianna experienced pregnancy complications with her fourth child in 1961 and had been advised by her doctor to have an abortion, since the pregnancy threatened her life. She decided to continue the pregnancy and risk her own life for the child. She died in 1962 a week after giving birth to a daughter, Gianna Emanuela.

St. John Paul II canonized St. Gianna in 2004 for her heroism in that decision and her holy life. After her father’s death in 2010, the daughter, Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, a geriatric doctor who had stepped away from her profession to care for her father, began speaking around the world about her saintly mother.

She will be the keynote speaker at an Oct. 27 Gala supporting the Minnetonka-based memory care residences Gianna Homes, which was named for her mother. She will also be the keynote speaker the following day at “Take My Hand, Not My Life, “ a symposium on end-of-life issues.

The symposium is being organized in collaboration with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota Catholic Conference, Curatio, Catholic Medical Association and the Order of Malta’s Minnesota Delegation.

Champions for Life winner returns

A former St. John Paul II Champions for Life award winner will speak at the annual award banquet sponsored by the Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

Maddie Schulte, a 2014 recipient, has been active in the pro-life movement since 2010. Schulte founded a pro-life group at Mahtomedi High School and became the president of the pro-life club at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, where she plans to complete degrees in business management and political science in 2018.

Schulte serves as a regional coordinator for Students for Life of America. She also gives pro-life presentations and volunteers with pregnancy resource centers.

“Since she was a young girl she has outwardly lived her conviction that all life is sacred,” Stoplestad said of Schulte. “Maddie is one of our homegrown heroes for life.”

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