A pro-life activist who survived an abortion that killed her twin sister shared how God has redeemed the broken parts of her story — and used for good what Satan intended for evil.
On a recent episode of the “Politely Rude With Abby Johnson” podcast, Claire Culwell shared her story with her friend, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director-turned-pro-life-activist.
Just 13 years old and in eighth grade when she got pregnant, Culwell’s mother had a D&C surgical late-term abortion during her fifth month of pregnancy. Culwell’s mother was told her abortion was successful, but one of the twins had survived. She then sought out a second late-term abortion in Kansas, but she was unable to have the procedure because of the risk of infection.
Culwell, who was adopted into a Christian family, shared that she didn’t know she had survived an abortion until she met her biological mother and heard the entire story — a day she described as eye-opening.
“That day, as I looked into my birth mother’s eyes as I saw her tears as I saw what abortion had done to her, I chose to forgive my first mother,” she said. “And I asked her if I could share this story with people because I knew that God’s fingerprints were all over it. I knew that there was something powerful about an abortion survivor.”
Culwell said that growing up, she never met anyone affected by abortion — and her head was “spinning” when she fully understood its far-reaching effects.
“Not only did I need to forgive my birth mother so that she could heal, but I learned that I wasn’t alone, that the person who had been affected by abortion was someone just like me and someone just like you,” she said.
After asking her birth mother — who saw the abortion as her most shameful secret — for permission, Culwell began sharing her story with others. She recalled the moment she told her story to a crowd that included her birth mother.
“I brought her up on stage and we cried,” she said. “I introduced her to people for the first time and she grabbed my hand and she raised our handset together. I love that moment because it felt like victory. Victory over what happened to us, victory over what abortion tried to do to us, tried to take from us.”
“We have victory because of what Christ offers and because of His forgiveness for us and because we know that one day, He’ll come back and He’ll make all things right, and so we have that hope,” she continued. “God has really turned something that was made for evil — for my evil, to take my life, to dismember my twin, to hurt my birth mother — He’s taken that evil and He’s turned it into something good.”
“I choose to forgive, and I choose to focus on the good and the hope in the story because I think that our journey of healing, even though it’s been difficult, has paved the way for people to recognize the humanity of the unborn child and recognize the need for people, and especially Christians pastors, to stand up and say, ‘We’ve had enough. We have got to do better than what we’re doing.’”
Johnson noted that according to studies, an estimated 70% of women who have had an abortion stated that they felt coerced to do so.
“That’s exactly how [it was for] your birth mother,” she told Culwell. “She felt she had no other choice because she was being forced to have an abortion.”
Johnson encouraged Christians to refrain from passing judgment on those who’ve had abortions and instead “show grace” and support ministries that provide alternative options.
Both Johnson and Culwell urged pastors to address the subject of abortion from the pulpit: “The apathy of the Church, the silence of the Church, is sending women to run toward the abortion clinic as their safe place because the abortion clinic is saying, ‘We’re here for you, we support you,’” Culwell said.
“For 21 years, I sat in the pews of the same church … and not once did I ever hear my pastor, my youth leader, anybody, talk about abortion. Talk about the reality of what it was doing, how it’s tearing families apart, taking life. Telling women that they have to kill their child in order to live their life, be successful, be happy,” she said.
“Never once heard about how God created life in His image and so we should protect it. And so here I was, 21 years old, finding out that I had been affected by abortion, and I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know if that would be accepted.”
Culwell shares her story of survival and forgiveness in her new book, Survivor: An Abortion Survivor’s Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption.
“The book is really about my survival story from the moment I was conceived and survived my birth mother’s abortion 32 years ago now until,” she shared.
“I hope that it starts conversations for people, that people will know the truth and care about the truth and do something with the information that they’re given in this story and through the redemptive message that it shares,” Culwell added.