Claire Culwell was 20 years old when she discovered she had a twin.
Adopted as an infant, she said she knew from the beginning that she was “wanted, chosen, and loved” by her adoptive family. But there was a part of her that felt incomplete.
Like many children of adoption, Culwell was curious about her birth mother and the story of how she came to be. She had been adopted by missionaries who also adopted another girl. Her sister eventually met her birth mother.
At the meeting with her sister’s birth mother, Culwell realized that she wanted to reach out and thank her birth mother for giving her the gift of life. However, whether her birth mother wanted to be contacted was an open question.
“I knew it was a possibility that she could say yes or no,” Culwell said in a video posted to her website. “But I really just reached out to her because I wanted to thank her because I had had an incredible life and an incredible family because of her.”
Culwell eventually got to meet her birth mother and finally heard the story she had been waiting to hear all her life, only it was not quite what she had expected.
“My birth mother was driven to a local abortion clinic, and she had a D and E (dilation and evacuation) dismemberment abortion at 20 weeks,” said Culwell. “They told her that she would never have to think about it again and that she could go home and pretend like it never happened.”
As she tried to get her life back to normal following the procedure, Culwell’s birth mother realized something was wrong because her stomach continued to grow.
After returning to the doctor, it was determined that Culwell’s biological mother had been pregnant with twins. Culwell had a brother who was successfully aborted while she survived.
Her birth mother decided to go to Kansas to seek a late-term abortion, but doctors there determined the risk to her health was too great. Instead, Culwell’s grandparents took her birth mother to an adoption agency, where she stayed until Culwell was delivered at 30 weeks.
“When I was born, I weighed three pounds and two ounces, and I had a dislocated hip. So, in my mind, this is not what I expected to find out, but it’s almost like putting back together the pieces of the puzzle of my life story because we never knew what caused those complications,” she said.
“I survived something that was meant to take my life, but even bigger than that, my life was protected in spirit that day. … I don’t know why I survived […], and my twin didn’t. But I know God protected my life, and I was willing to forgive my birth mother and love her at that moment.”
Since finding out she is an abortion survivor, Culwell has endured some rough patches. But after giving birth to her own daughter, she developed a close relationship with her birth mother.
In fact, Claire’s birth mother found healing and forgiveness through her relationship with her granddaughter, as well as hearing stories of other abortion survivors and even former abortion clinic directors and doctors, according to Culwell.
Claire continues to tell her story and advocates for the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
“I’m a wife and a mother, and I have a successful career, and I enjoy my life,” she said. “I’m so grateful for my life and for the family that I have through adoption, and so I enjoy being able to share not only my humanity with people but also to be able to join with other people who have survived abortions like myself.”