Survivor: An Abortion Survivor's Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption

Survivor: An Abortion Survivor's Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption

Survivor: An Abortion Survivor's Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption

Survivor: An Abortion Survivor's Surprising Story of Choosing Forgiveness and Finding Redemption


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An abortion survivor and leading pro-life spokeswoman tells her inspiring and sometimes surprising story of redemption, healing, and forgiveness, offering grace and support—not shame—to women facing the most difficult decision of their lives.

“Claire’s heart-wrenching and inspiring story is exactly what our world needs today.”—Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, author of Fighting for Life

Foreword by Abby Johnson, bestselling author of Unplanned, and afterword by Josh McDowell, founder of Josh McDowell Ministry
Raised in a loving adoptive home, Claire Culwell, at the age of twenty-one, decided to meet her birth mother—and got the shock of her life. Claire’s birth mother, Tonya, confessed that when she was pregnant with Claire, she’d gone to a clinic for an abortion. Yet, after the abortion, the pregnancy continued to progress. What Tonya’s doctor had overlooked was that she’d been pregnant with twins. The abortion that terminated the life of Claire’s twin had miraculously spared Claire. 
Claire embraced the unique circumstances, soon sharing her story with the world and urging her listeners to understand how abortion takes the life of a child. When Claire faced her own unplanned pregnancy as a single woman, she embraced the added opportunity to step into the shoes of those she advocates for. Her heart grew bigger on the issue of life, which increased her extension of empathy and grace to women in pregnancy crisis. At the same time, she began to challenge churches to truly value not just the unborn but also the women who face unexpected pregnancy. 

Survivor is Claire’s incredible story of surviving abortion and advocating for life—the lives of unborn babies as well as the lives of their mothers. Her powerful message of grace speaks louder than politics or controversy or shame as she inspires each of us to choose life wherever we are.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593193228
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/27/2021
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 268,367
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Claire Culwell is an international speaker and author who has been featured on Fox News, Focus on the Family, and in many other news outlets. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their four children. 

Lois Mowday Rabey is a popular speaker and the author of numerous books.

Steve Rabey has authored or coauthored fifty books and written more than two thousand articles for publications including The New York Times and Christianity Today.

Lois and Steve have been married more than thirty years and live in Colorado.

Read an Excerpt


Chosen, Loved, Adopted


“So, Claire, are you really adopted?”

“That’s weird.”

“What’s that like?”

“Did you live in an orphanage?”

“I’m sorry you’re adopted.”

My elementary school friends weren’t trying to be rude or mean. Most were merely curious. But their occasional questions surprised me.

“Yeah, and what was it like living in an orphanage?”

Most of us kids had seen the movie Annie, which was based on the old comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Annie lived in a big New York orphanage run by a mean alcoholic woman who made all the children work and clean every day. Annie tried to escape but was caught and returned to the orphanage, where she was later adopted by a wealthy man named Oliver Warbucks.

“I’ve never seen an orphanage,” I told my friends, “and being adopted is wonderful.”

My parents had actually convinced me that adopting was the preferred way to create a family. While most mommies and daddies simply accepted the babies that were born to them, my mommy and daddy searched and searched until they found me—the perfect baby for them.

Then, once they took me home, they loved me with all their hearts.

“We loved you more than anybody has ever loved a baby,” Daddy always told me. I’m pretty sure almost all parents feel that way about their children, but my sister and I always felt affirmed when our parent repeated those words.

I tried to explain it all to my friends.

“My mom and dad wanted me. They chose me. They love me,” I said. “And it’s not like being adopted makes me any different than you.”

In time, I would learn much more about Warren and Barbara Culwell—when they met, how they fell in love, and how they faced difficult struggles to create our wonderful family.

In fact, I often heard them tell their story when college students and other guests who had gathered around our big dinner table asked them how they got together.

It was December 1979, and Warren Culwell was in Atlanta to attend the annual Christmas conference of Campus Crusade for Christ—now named Cru—the ministry that works with students and others all over the world.

After two years on Crusade’s campus staff at Ole Miss, Warren was given a plum assignment: serving as personal assistant to Josh McDowell, the ministry’s globe-trotting superstar speaker.

McDowell was able to transform Christian apologetics from an abstract academic exercise into compelling talks he delivered to millions of young people. He wrote Evidence That Demands a Verdict, a classic that has sold more than one million copies and is still in print.

Many young people rejected Christianity during the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s, but McDowell assured his audiences that having faith in a resurrected Christ and trusting in the Bible’s teaching were not only intellectually defensible but also the only way to live. Warren traveled with McDowell from city to city, handling logistics and working with local Crusade staff to follow up with the many students who had come to faith through the events.

Barbara Griffes, a college senior, was four years younger than Warren. She had come to Crusade’s Christmas conference to learn, grow her faith, and apply for a job. Faith in Christ was central to her life, and she wanted to join Crusade so she could share the gospel message with young people desperately searching for answers to life’s challenges.

Barbara was riding up an escalator when Warren spotted the attractive newcomer from the floor above. Something about her caught his eye. As she got closer, he could make out her name tag. But instead of quietly introducing himself when she got off the escalator, Warren, who could be energetic, joyful, outgoing, and a bit irreverent, called out to her in a voice that others nearby could hear.

“Barbara, I love you!” he shouted.

Startled and a bit embarrassed, Barbara smiled and walked on by. But it wasn’t the last time these two would cross paths.

They met again—but only briefly—in February 1980. Warren had traveled with Josh McDowell to a speaking engagement at Auburn University, where Barbara was a student leader. They talked, but then Warren was quickly on the road again.

That summer, they would finally have some time to get to know each other better. Both were taking training classes at Crusade’s Institute of Biblical Studies in Colorado when one of Warren’s friends suggested a double date with Barbara and one of her friends. The two couples spent a beautiful day at Elitch Gardens, an amusement park in Denver.

By the end of the day, my mom-and-dad-to-be had grown more serious about each other.

In the gathering twilight, the two of them were strapped into a little car on a big Ferris wheel. As they sat close together, their car rotated up to the top and paused, giving them a stunning view of Denver’s city lights and the vast expanse of the Rocky Mountains to the west.

That was the moment Warren looked at Barbara and thought, You know, this is the kind of girl I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Things moved quickly after that. Between Crusade classes on the Bible and theology, the two sought each other out during campfires and horse rides in the Rocky Mountains. As they talked about their lives, shared their favorite Bible verses, and discussed their passion for ministry, their affection grew.

“Each of us knew we wanted to share our lives with someone who was devoted to serving Christ,” my mom explained to me.

And in June 1981—a year and a half after they met—they were married.

But married life turned out to be even busier than they expected. Their first years of marriage were hectic.

Mom was on staff with Crusade at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, leading Bible studies for sorority girls and other students while also discipling young people who were interested in experiencing a deeper relationship with Christ.

Dad worked with male students at SMU while attending Dallas Theological Seminary.

Both believed the work they were doing with students was vital, so they gave 110 percent of their time and energy to ministry. They assumed they would have kids and start a family at some point, as both came from big, loving families. But they had no idea when they would get around to it. Life was full, the demands of ministry were never ending, and they were in no hurry.

Then came Hawaii.

In 1984, Crusade dispatched them to a distant tropical paradise for a summer assignment: teaching forty college students how to grow in their Christian faith and share it naturally with others on their campuses.

Their lodging was far from romantic. They stayed at the Hawaii School for Girls, where they slept on cots. But the setting—near Diamond Head, a gorgeous volcanic crater—was beautiful and inspired thoughts of a family. They were ready.

“God,” they prayed aloud together, “please bless us and give us a beautiful baby!”

Dad prayed more specifically: for a beautiful baby boy who would carry on his family name.

A short time later, Mom didn’t feel well, which got her excited.

Is this my first bout of morning sickness? she wondered.

No. She was not pregnant but merely taking the first steps of a long journey of waiting, wondering, believing, and doubting.

People deal with challenges in different ways, and my mom and dad faced infertility in dramatically different ways.

Dad’s default approach is to be hopeful and positive about the future. He’s a visionary who always looks ahead to what God can do tomorrow. His approach to their inability to conceive was optimistic. “If our plan A doesn’t work out, God will have an even better plan B for us.”

But Mom’s barren years were difficult for her as she struggled to understand why God was not choosing to give them the baby they had hoped and prayed for.

She often compared herself with her Crusade friends, many of whom seemed blessed with supernatural fertility, according to their frequent, joyful announcements of their pregnancies.

“I went to baby shower after baby shower and always hoped I’d have one myself,” she once told me. She described this period of her life as “living in a waiting room.”

Table of Contents

Foreword Abby Johnson vii

Preface: The Secret that Turned me Upside Down xiii

Part 1 Wanted, Chosen, Loved

1 Chosen, Loved, Adopted 3

2 A Happy Baby 13

3 Our Family of Four 16

4 An Expanding Heart 30

5 Meeting Tonya 41

6 A Life-Changing Revelation 55

Part 2 Writing a New Story

7 The Unraveling 67

8 My Year of Destiny 75

9 My Story, My Calling 91

10 My Personal "Unplanned" 107

11 Turning Ashes into Beauty 123

12 Experiencing God's Grace and Redemption 144

Epilogue: Connecting the Dots 165

Afterword Josh McDowell 169

Acknowledgments 171

Going Further 179

Notes 185

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