Claire Culwell has been sharing about her survival from abortion for years, and now she’s hoping that her story can reach even more through the publication of her new book Survivor: An Abortion Survivor’s Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption.
Recently, The Daily Citizen had the opportunity to sit down and interview Culwell about her story, forgiveness and why she was influenced to finally put pen to paper.
“I’ve been sharing my story for 11 years now and I saw the truth that people were able to grasp from my survival, the humanity of the unborn baby and the pain that women experience after an abortion,” Claire shared. “And I wanted to put it in one place that can be a resource for people. So, I wrote my story and I wanted to share the picture of my life and what got me to today, where I’m a nationally known pro-life speaker, but also an abortion survivor.”
For those that haven’t had the opportunity to hear Claire speak, her mother became pregnant at the tender age of 13 and was pressured by her mother to have an abortion. It’s a truth Claire found out while visiting her birth mother at her home.
As Claire recalls, her mother said, “What happened isn’t what you think happened. I didn’t choose to give you life.”
Her mother, Tonya, then shared the painful story about how Claire’s grandmother was “furious” that she was pregnant and could only think of “getting rid of the problem.” Tonya went to an abortion clinic and did have the procedure, but the abortionist failed to realize that there wasn’t one baby, but two.
Miraculously, Claire survived.
Tonya told her, “But your life was spared one more time. When your twin was aborted, the sac had been ripped. It was too dangerous to abort you. You lived!”
It’s a harrowing story, and one that Claire didn’t expect to hear after her second meeting with her birth mother. She had always been under the impression that her mother chose life through the blessing of adoption. But it also gave Claire a strong and powerful voice in the pro-life movement.
“I hope that people will be able to hear the story of an abortion survivor and think, ‘Gosh, that’ll never be me, that’s not my story, that’s not relatable to me.’ What they don’t realize is that abortion survivors are real people.
“We have struggles, we have a history of what God has been able to share through our story, there is a reason behind that. I wanted people to be able to identify with that but also be encouraged to speak up for truth and to speak up for life and understand the importance of that and what God says,” Claire explained.
“I also wanted people to grasp the forgiveness that He has not only for my birth mother, but for every single person who has experienced abortion in their life in some way.”
With the growing use of programs like 23andMe and Ancestry, people across the country are finding out more about their families. Some news may be expected, but others, perhaps, not so much. From surprise siblings to some finding out that one of the parents who raised them isn’t biologically related. Some may even discover that they or their parent survived an abortion.
“I just had somebody contact me yesterday saying they survived an abortion, and I think that you many have an abortion survivor or disappointment in your own story,” Claire said. “God’s bigger picture for your life may not look anything like you expected it to, but that’s okay because He sees the bigger picture and He wants to bring something good from your mess from your pain, from your rejection and from your disappointment, and He will if you allow Him.”
It’s a perspective that Claire’s learned from her parents and helped her navigate the truth of her story as an abortion survivor.
“So, when I found out that there was disappointment in my story and it looked nothing like I expected it to, that I am an abortion survivor, that’s what I clung to. It’s that hope that even in my difficult circumstances, even in my moments of confusion, that what He says about me is true every single day: that I am wanted, that I am chosen, and that I am a child of God,” Claire shared.
“That’s what I hope that anyone reading the book would take away from is that even if they’re an abortion survivor, even if there is disappointment. God sees you and He loves you and He wants to make something new and something good.”
Claire’s seen so much of this through her own story and family. Her parents struggled with infertility for years, and in the book, Claire shares about how they constantly cried out to God for a child. It’s a story that couples who have experienced infertility can deeply resonate with and one that brings encouragement that God is working, but perhaps in a way they didn’t expect.
“This child that they wanted so desperately in those months as they were crying out to God, my birth mother was pregnant, and I was an unwanted child,” Claire said. “God took me from my birth mother’s womb and spared my life during an abortion procedure so that my mom’s prayers could come true, in a totally unexpected, unplanned way. But it was the plan that God wrote for our lives.”
“And I think about how if I had had any other parents, I don’ know that I would have been able to respond to my birth mother in the way that I did,” Claire shared.
Throughout her story, forgiveness is one of the most crucial aspects. It’s something that Claire said she learned from her parents, who shared that they would forgive her for mistakes or disobedience, just as God has forgiven them.
Claire said, “The natural response for me was to forgive my birth mother because I knew that God had already forgiven her.
“And so, I think that God writes stories in a perfect way, even when we can’t see it, there’s hope and we have to trust that He always has our best interest in mind because He does.
“I can look back at every disappointment in my life, every single struggle or moment of confusion, and see now that God’s hand was in every single one of those moments, even though I didn’t know. And maybe I was confused about what was around the corner, but God had it all in His hands and He does for every single one of us as we journey to create our families.”
As Claire continues to share her story, more and more people are impacted. The message of forgiveness resonates especially with the women and men who have participated in an abortion.
“As far as my story goes, I’ve really been able to see people respond well through my forgiveness for my birth mother,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of men and women who have come up to me after I’ve shared my story and shared how they too experienced an abortion, and they’re ready to heal because they hear the forgiveness that I have for my birth mother. But not only that, but the forgiveness that God has for my birth mother, and they want that. They can relate to that. They’ve been able to begin their healing journey.”
And it’s not only those that have experienced abortion who have been deeply moved by Claire’s survival.
One man came up to Claire after a speaking event and said that he, for the first time, could identify with the humanity of the unborn child in the womb as he could see the face of her twin. The realization brought him to his knees.
He told her, “I can see the face of an aborted child.”
So, what can the church do for young women, like Tonya, who are facing pressure from their partners, family members and maybe even friends telling them that they must get an abortion? It’s something that Claire experienced herself, as she also had an unexpected pregnancy.
“I think that the only response from community members, believers and family members should be uplifting and supportive,” Claire said. “One of the biggest reasons women have abortions is because they don’t feel supported. They feel like, ‘I can’t do this. This is impossible.’
“And if we make the impossible possible for them, if we say, ‘I’m going to support you. I am here for you. You can do this. You are worthy. You deserve more than what abortion has to offer.’ Oftentimes, that’s all it takes.”
As Claire’s story hits the bookstores and as she continues to speak publicly about being a survivor, there’s no doubt that her story will continue to resonate and impact people across the country. And no longer will abortion be an abstract, but something tangible.
Claire said, “‘Choice’ is a person. Abortion has a name, and you can know that name through the abortion survivor.”
Hear Claire and other abortion survivors share their story on the Focus on the Family Broadcast.
Photo from ClaireCulwell.com