The most powerful stories are those that bring the hypothetical to life. In 1989, a reported 1,396,658 abortions took place within the United States. Claire Culwell may have been the only infant who survived the procedure that year. Her twin wasn’t so fortunate.
The Abortion Survivors Network reports only 365 documented cases of abortion survival in American history, though more survivors almost certainly exist. Like Culwell, many of them have grown up unaware of how they entered the world.
In her memoir, Survivor: An Abortion Survivor’s Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption, Culwell recounts her idyllic childhood spent in a loving adoptive family. As a young woman, she became interested in finding her biological mother, a search that would drastically change her life.
Raised in a compassionate Christian home by parents who worked for the evangelical organization Cru for over 40 years, Culwell was poised to receive the news of her unlikely birth sympathetically. After locating her birth mother, Tonya, and having a joyous first meeting, Culwell penned a note thanking her for choosing life. But the note compelled an astonishing admission.
Tonya was only 13 at the time of the 20-week abortion that killed Culwell’s sibling and nearly took her own life. “The day [my mother] took me to an abortion clinic, I was terrified,” recounts Tonya in the book. “I was alone and scared. The doctor never said a word to me … as if this were just another day in the life of a bad young girl.” Soon thereafter, Tonya discovered she was still pregnant. (She hadn’t known she was carrying twins.) Her mother took her for a second abortion, which never took place due to complications ...1
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