CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) – A survivor of abortion is giving a face to the unborn and hoping to inspire others to find post-abortive healing and zeal for the millions of faceless babies in danger of abortion.
This month marks the 47th year of legal abortion in the United States. In the past few years, March for Life events have been increasing in popularity and frequency as one way people can show opposition to killing the unborn.
One of the first of the 2020 marches is in Chicago Jan. 11.
Church Militant spoke with Claire Culwell, one of the scheduled rally speakers at the March for Life Chicago, about her decade-long advocacy for the unborn. Culwell started speaking up for the unborn in 2009, only months after she learned she survived the dismemberment abortion that killed her twin.
Culwell grew up in a Christian home but didn't give much thought to the abortion issue. She knew she was adopted and always wanted to meet her birth mother. Her suspicion was that her mother was very young based on how poorly the adoption papers were filled out.
Culwell finally met her birth mother in March 2009, who confessed she was only 13 years old when she got pregnant. She was forced to undergo an abortion by her mother, Culwell's grandmother. One baby was aborted, but the abortionist didn't know she was carrying twins, and Culwell's life was spared.
Culwell said the thought that gave her the most grief was seeing the pain her birth mother suffered as a result of the abortion.
"Nobody was there for her. Nobody cared for her," Culwell said. "It almost took my breath away to see that pain she experienced."
Culwell had many thoughts and questions to grapple with: "I never thought about myself; I have a biological daughter that wouldn't be here if I was aborted."
"God does everything for a purpose," she continued. "What is the reason for this? What is my purpose?"
A chance meeting with sidewalk counselors praying at an abortion mill just two months before Culwell met her birth mother proved to be an answer.
The pro-life counselors had gathered outside a local Planned Parenthood. At the time, she thought that while she agreed with what they were doing, she thought it wasn't something she wanted to do. Later, thinking her story would help the pro-lifers inspire others, she typed it up and gave it to them.
"It turns out that was Abby Johnson's Planned Parenthood and she had just left," Culwell said. She had actually given her story to 40 Days for Life president and CEO, Shawn Carney.
Carney and the others wanted Culwell to be the one to share her story and repeatedly asked her to do so. Finally, in December 2009, Culwell spoke about her experience publicly for the first time.
"I saw the impact," Culwell said. She was struck by the comments from the attendees, explaining one of them said she "put a face with the unborn child."
Seeing the impact is still part of what drives Culwell to take to the podium dozens of times each year. "It's neat to see people's conversions, how this impacts their own lives through my testimony," she said.
In addition to pro-life marches and events, Culwell advocates at rallies and before lawmakers for pro-life legislation, including heartbeat bills banning abortion after a baby's heartbeat is detected and the Born Alive Abortion Survivor's Protection Act, which would mandate medical care for babies who survive an abortion attempt.
Culwell says she supports legislation that makes pre-abortion ultrasounds mandatory and "anything that establishes the humanity of the unborn child."
She has also worked with Melissa Ohden of The Abortion Survivors Network and said they've "connected with over 300 survivors through that network."
Ohden is creating a post-abortive healing curriculum for survivors of abortion, and Culwell said it's important for abortion survivors "to know they are not alone."
Surviving an abortion "is actually happening to people," she noted. Those she has met are "grateful and happy they received medical care and a chance at life." They have no way of knowing exactly how many abortion survivors there are because there are no reporting requirements in many states.
Culwell is excited to be a part of both the March for Life Chicago and the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24. She agrees with the critics of marches that it is unfortunate they are often used by pro-lifers as their one-and-done act of advocacy. She said everyone needs to go back home and continue the advocacy every day.
"Abortion affects everyone," she said. "This moment of marching sets the pace for how the rest of the year will be."