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Book reviews

Sharon Biggs Waller’s Girls on the Verge (Henry Holt, 2019)

Tedious teen abortion novel by abortion zealot, should have been cut 90%, but useful for pro-lifers.

If she reduced her 221 page teen abortion novel 90%, Waller would have matched Ernest Hemingway’s famous abortion short story “Hills Like White Elephants.”  Unfortunately, the reduction would not have improved the work; it would still be tedious and trite.

We’ve read stories like this before, and the plot is getting tedious, tiring, and tedious (did I say “tedious” enough?).  Camille is a pregnant teen mother who wants to kill the unborn baby using abortifacients and corrals her friends into helping her buy the drugs.  When the abortifacients fail to kill the child, she succeeds in having an office of the abortion business Planned Parenthood kill the unborn child.  That’s all.  End of story.

Not even the anti-male bias of the characters, or their angry feminism, or their “situation” (Camille lives in Texas, which has protective legislation to stop abortion as far as constitutionally permitted) changes the fact that this is just another teen abortion story.

However, fortunately for the pro-life movement, Waller’s novel shows how distortion of language is absolutely necessary among anti-life authors.  (Waller states that she is a volunteer for the abortion business Planned Parenthood [223].)  The distortion of language is something we can use as teachable moments to persuade mothers to reject abortion, which harms them, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers.

For example, every pro-lifer knows how the pronoun “it” has been used since Hemingway’s time to dehumanize the unborn child.  Waller does the same.  Camille wants to “get rid of it” (22) because she denies that the baby is a baby (28).  Camille’s friend Bea asks, “How big will it be?” (78).  Camille will “Flush it down the toilet” (79).

The novel uses pauses and ellipses to show that even an anti-life author like Waller has her characters hesitate using the word “abortion” or any word referring to the unborn child, usually called a “fetus.”  (It’s amazing that virulently pro-abortion authors still don’t realize that the seemingly clinical Latin term “fetus” means one’s child or “offspring” and is meant to be affectionate.)

Moreover, Waller uses the technique of literary “stuttering” or “stammering” in several places.  Camille’s abortifacients would have her deliver the child: “I need to be near a toilet because…because” (78; ellipsis in original, and the sentence ends with terminal punctuation after the repeated subordinating conjunction).  Camille’s friend Bea asks, “How big will it be? […] “The…you know” (78; ellipsis in original).  Later in the novel, Camille’s use of “it” could refer to the abortion procedure or to the child (175).  Camille cannot look at the ultrasound of the baby (175).  Bea’s hesitancy in talking about the unborn child to be killed by abortifacients continues: “to cover the, uh, you know—” (197).

If the author’s stated intention is to help mothers and young women boast about the abortion killings, then these characters have far to go to force themselves into thinking that the medical assault called abortion is a good thing.

An egregious linguistic slip occurs when Camille comments on a time “when you can feel the baby kick” (178).  Was this deliberate, a Freudian slip, or an error on the part of the virulently pro-abortion author?

And, of course, the characters of this anti-life work must utter the standard canard of ignorance of bodily difference, that abortion is something which affects only the mother’s body.  Camille’s friend Annabelle (a stridently anti-male feminist who volunteers for the abortion business Planned Parenthood) utters her ignorance when she says, “It’s none of my business what you do with your body” (105).

Another of course: even Camille, rabid teen anti-life feminist that she is, cannot escape post-abortion syndrome (PAS), as is evident when she rhetorically asks, “How do you deal with awful things that happen?  How do you forget them?” (199).  It’s obvious, then, that she will never “forget” the abortion killing which she arranges.

The abortion itself is a one paragraph bit of linguistic obfuscation which any student in an English literature course would appreciate for its deception:

“Dr. Maria [the abortionist] inserts something in me.  I feel a pressure in my stomach followed by a pain that feels like the worst period cramps I’ve ever had.  But the pain only lasts a few seconds.  My paper drape rustles, and I feel the doctor’s hands as she helps me put my legs down” (213).

Note how the painful killing of the unborn child is obscured behind “the pain” that the mother herself feels, the verb “feel” repeated several times.

However, these are points that I leave for students to write about and for professors like me who will use this novel as an illustration of how a cadre of contemporary women writers are the new killers.

Pro-lifers who are more activist, such as protesters outside the offices of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, will be greatly encouraged by two statements in the “Author’s Note” about the effectiveness of pro-life picketing.  “Despite our best efforts to shield patients,” Waller writes, “they can’t help but notice the protesters” (224).  Waller testifies to the effectiveness of pro-life protesters again when she writes that “the political anti-choice [pro-life] movement is strong.  There are protesters at nearly every abortion clinic” (225).  Great work, activists!

While the novel can be read in several hours, it’s still feeble.  Pro-life activists, however, can use it as further evidence that anti-life authors continue to use the same standard and tiresome literary strategies to dehumanize the unborn child.

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Book reviews

Dianne Touchell’s A Small Madness (Groundwood Books, 2015)

Well-written novel with both standard and clever dehumanizing language used by abortion supporters.

Supposedly meant for teens, this abortion novel can be enjoyed by all ages.  Pro-life readers studying how anti-life/pro-abortion people dehumanize the unborn child will be especially delighted in the plot and clever language.

Touchell does a remarkable job of using the dehumanizing technique made famous by Ernest Hemingway (calling the unborn child an “it”), and she adds several new twists to the anti-life/pro-abortion dehumanizing lexicon.

While one use of “it” is ambiguous (whether the term refers to the teens’ reactions about the pregnancy in general or to the unborn child him- or herself; see page 64), the uses of “it” to refer to the unborn child are extensive, closely followed by “thing” as another term to demean the unborn child.

Liv, the best friend of Rose, the aborted mother, suggests that she “get rid of it” (56).  Rose thinks the baby isn’t already, but “would […] become a real thing” (56).  Michael, Rose’s lover and father of the child, also queries, “Could they get rid of it?” (58).  Rose thinks of the baby as “the thing” and “it” (67).  Michael calls the unborn child an “it” who is now “like a manatee in his spinal fluid” (85).  When she thinks she is not pregnant but just has a delayed period, Rose declares that “I just created this thing in my mind” (115).  After she miscarries, Rose simply states that “It went away” (124).  When Michael and she reflect on what to do with the child’s body, Rose commands Michael, “Bring it to me”; “’It must be buried,’ Rose said again” (126; italics in original).  Looking at the corpse of the child, Rose calls her “the tiny gray thing” (128).  Even when he is drunk, Michael obsesses over the child’s burial, saying, “We buried it” (159).

Two of Touchell’s items of dehumanizing language towards the unborn child are certainly unique: snot and virus.  Michael compares having an abortion to “picking your nose” (58).  Certainly, likening his own unborn child (daughter) to snot says a great deal about this wayward young man.

Equating the unborn child to a virus may be a new entry in the fictional anti-life lexicon.  Michael concludes that his father’s disappointment in him is “just as much a virus as this thing inside of Rose” (62).  He repeats the metaphor later, referring to “this virus inside her” (82).  Rose herself uses this metaphor often; she says, “I have a virus in me” (97) when she is pregnant and “The virus had gone away” (172) after her miscarriage.

Rose clearly manifests post-abortion syndrome (PAS).  The novel is not a typical teen abortion work, where the mother goes to an abortion clinic to have the child killed; Rose is depicted as miscarrying, so the abortion occurring in this novel is not an elective, but a spontaneous abortion, morally neutral.  What may interest the reader more, though, is determining whether Rose’s intention and efforts to kill the unborn child herself (by smoking, depriving herself of food, etc.) meet the criteria of moral culpability in the child’s killing.

What’s even more interesting is that Rose follows a trajectory of personality defragmentation after the miscarriage and after the police come to speak with her on finding the baby’s body which the teens buried in an empty lot.  She becomes “disconnected” and “more detached and confused” (172).  She calls her thrust into reality “this disconnection” (181).  Another character labels Rose a “vacuous caricature” (186).  At novel’s end, only Michael obviously experiences “relief” after he apparently confessed his role in the child’s burial (189).

Taking only half a day to read, this novel not only definitely entertains, but also allows pro-lifers to study several linguistic ways that anti-life/pro-abortion people try to make the unborn child less than human.

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Book reviews

Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow (Henry Holt, 2019)

Tedious plot, a funny teenage sex scene, yet the novel illustrates conservative and pro-life ideas.

The plot is implausible, the text could be rewritten in detailed paragraphs instead of one-liners, the novel has little to do with medical killing (euthanasia), and it confirms heterosexual normativity.

It was difficult reading the 369 pages of this fantasy novel for the reasons stated above, but readers can use some ideas from this novel to promote pro-life views about the sanctity of human life and conservative views about heterosexual normativity.

The sematic distortion in the novel is obvious.  Just as euthanasia supporters try to rename the killing of the elderly and the medically vulnerable as “death with dignity” or some other euphemism, the main characters in Owen’s novel are “Crows” who give “mercy” to persons either suffering from illness or dying.  The Crows don’t provide mercy, of course; they kill the people.  Pro-lifers can use this novel as an example of the linguistic distortion used to kill humans in an ancient pagan, albeit fantasy, world.

A major problem of the novel is conceptual.  If Fie, the main Crow character, has the power to create magic to make herself and others invisible to her enemies or to heal wounds obtained in battles, then why could she not use her magic skills to provide palliative care for those who are terminally ill?

Moreover, Fie’s knowledge of herbal sources used as either contraceptives or menstrual aids (171) indicates that even the pagan world in which Fie lives has great knowledge of natural remedies.  Why, then, could her society not have discovered a natural palliative to relieve the pain of those in a terminal condition?

Furthermore, perhaps the reason why Fie is so belligerent and angry throughout the novel is that she is stuck in the caste of being a killer.  Her character comports with the contemporary view that abortionists and euthanasia supporters are incredibly unhappy people.

However, the novel is not concerned so much with euthanasia killings as it is with a tediously narrated journey for Fie and two young men.  Thus, if you’re looking for a thorough fictional account of euthanasia killers, ignore this novel.

On the lighter side, the sex scene between Fie and Tavin is comedy at its best, thunder and all (241-243).  Yes, it is supposed to be titillating and probably is for young adult readers; mature persons, of course, would read these pages and laugh.

Besides being humorous, this sex scene reinforces heterosexual normativity.  Fie and Tavin are not moral exemplars; they are typical teens who think that sex is just an activity to generate pleasure instead of the expression of love between married persons.  It is extremely interesting, therefore, to see how the ever-snotty Fie has softened under the influence of having sex with a male (254).  Similarly, heterosexual normativity transforms Tavin’s idea about his purpose in life from a negative to a more positive one (243).

Whether promoting these heterosexual normative and pro-life ideas was the author’s purposes cannot be determined; the book jacket identifies Owen as someone who raises “money for social justice nonprofits.”

This novel was not worth the time I needed to plow through its 369 pages, but one can learn something from it, such as the above.  Otherwise, reading a master like Henry James (who writes in solid paragraphs) or Virginia Woolf (who is eclectic in her style yet does not lapse into ridiculous or tedious fantasy) would have been more entertaining.

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Book reviews

Carrie Mesrobian’s The Whitsun Daughters (Dutton Books, 2020)

The masturbation scenes don’t deflect from the plot’s abortion; rename this novel “Teens Who Kill.”

The masturbation scenes in Mesrobian’s novel are titillating but not as remarkable as the euphemisms hiding the chemical abortion plot.  Of course, the scenes which abuse male sexual power are meant for the sexually immature (teens or young adult readers).  Serious readers (everybody else) can use Mesrobian’s fiction as yet more evidence of the linguistic gymnastics, if not duplicity, which pro-abortion characters use to promote a practice which harms mothers, kills unborn children (whether surgically or, as in this case, chemically with abortifacients), and alienates fathers.

The euphemisms to refer to the killing practice called “abortion” are numerous.  Daisy, a main character, expresses surprise that “the things required to unmake a pregnancy would be sold someplace as ordinary as Walmart” (84).  “Unmake a pregnancy”?  Why the euphemism?  You mean abortion, right?

Daisy’s claim that her aunt “knows someone who—” (87) with the dash indicating that the sentence is unfinished is a literary technique other writers have used to hide the fact that characters are talking about, yet again, abortion.

The chemical killing of Lilah’s unborn child is discussed with the usual impersonal third-person pronouns and deceptive language.  “It’s starting”, Poppy says, using “it” to refer to the abortion (155).  Poppy “explained […] that it would be slowly happening now, the lining shedding in layers of blood and tissue” (157).  “It”, of course, refers to the abortion, and “the lining shedding” obscures the fact that it is not only “the lining” which is “shedding” but the unborn child him- or herself who is being killed by “shedding” along with the “lining” and “tissue.”

Daisy’s boyfriend Hugh asks if her sister is “not-pregnant” (160).  The narrator records Daisy’s reactions that “whatever lived inside in Lilah began its descent” (162).  Translation: the dead body of the unborn child, now separated from his or her warm and life-giving uterus and therefore dead, is being passed out of that uterus, thanks to an abortifacient drug which his or her aunt gave to his or her mother.  (Yeah, nonsexist language is cumbersome but must be used to be fair to the unborn child character who may be one of the two genders.)

One character’s Freudian slip—“to get rid of the baby” (174)—is quickly covered by deceptive abortion language a page later when Lilah talks about what some mothers did to “expel the contents of the uterus” (175).

Just like other abortion novels, whether written for teens or adults, post-abortion syndrome is obvious even here, in a novel whose characters clearly do not advance pro-life ideas and are hostile to religious persons who are pro-life.  Typical of mothers who have aborted, Lilah seems happy after her abortion (197).

Jane’s last reminiscence, however, which closes the novel, suggests that Lilah suffers from post-abortion syndrome: “She thinks of the babe she did not have; she ponders names late at night in bed, her eyes on the once-fractured seam in the celling.  When I watch her, I find myself remembering what I cannot reclaim.  It is the closest I can come to human pain now” (208).

This is not literary evidence of abortion which is supposed to make a woman happy.  It is, obviously, literary evidence of post-abortion syndrome.

Overall, even though the author is most likely a leftist and pro-abortion Democrat (same thing; consult her Twitter feed), Mesrobian’s work could suggest a fascinating paper for a student to write about the dishonest language which abortion-minded characters and authors use to dehumanize the unborn child, to suppress evidence of post-abortion syndrome, and to ignore the role of the father.

Just make sure your professor is pro-life and not a feminist hag who thinks abortion is the only choice for an untimely pregnancy.

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Book reviews

Elizabeth Keenan’s Rebel Girls (Inkyard Press, 2019)

A chore and a bore; a 412-page psychiatric study of a teen girl suffering from feminist monomania.

This novel with an unconvincing plot is more a psychiatric case study of a teen girl suffering from an outdated anti-life version of feminist ideology who discovers her innate heterosexual normativity.  Overall, the plot is not only unconvincing, but also difficult to plow through.  It didn’t help that President Trump had some magnificent rallies every day to distract me from reading this tedious narrative.

In essence, Athena, the first-person narrator who is anti-life, wants to help her pro-life sister Helen overcome rumors circulating in their high school that Helen had an abortion, which would ban her from being part of the Homecoming.

The essence of this plot was identified on page 95.  By page 369, the reader understands that all it took to overcome a teacher’s ban preventing Helen from being in the Homecoming was a call from her father to the principal.  Towards the end of the novel (page 402), Sr. Catherine, dean of discipline at the high school, vows not to expel another student who had aborted, so there was no issue worth writing about anyway.

Why, then, read 307 pages of a severely introspective unconvincing plot?

Furthermore, Athena’s preaching about abortion is equally unnecessary.  Athena mentions “abortion rights” (22), a standard anti-life phrase which distorts the first civil right, the right to life.  Being a typical anti-life feminist, Athena felt the need to talk about a pro-life crisis pregnancy center as a “fake abortion clinic” (61).  Worst of all is Athena’s claim that “There wasn’t anything wrong with having an abortion” (95)—a statement willfully ignoring post-abortion syndrome which, even in the novel’s setting of 1992, was obvious for mothers who aborted instead of chose one of several life-affirming options.

Athena may have committed an egregious Freudian slip when she admitted that the novel’s entire abortion language is unnecessary to the feeble plot.  When she and her friend enter the crisis pregnancy center, Athena lets slip that “none of this was really related to Helen, other than the associated topic of abortion” (135).

Wha-what?  This novel, then, is not about “abortion stigma” ([419]) or feminist empowerment of women (which is a pro-life concept).  Why, then, talk about abortion at all?  Just relate the story of a teenage girl who overcame certain rumors which could have prevented her from being part of Homecoming.

Including such propaganda is typical of contemporary women authors who are themselves anti-life.  (The author declares that she is anti-life/pro-abortion on page [417].)  No matter how anti-life writers try to justify abortion or, as in Keenan’s verbose effort, try to mitigate against “abortion stigma”, contemporary readers know that the task is impossible since abortion (which harms mothers, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers) is an unnatural attempt to distort heterosexual normativity.

And, Athena, the main character, proves just how forceful her innate femininity is.  She is subject to typical teen girl infatuations and explosive hormones leading to heterosexual romance.  Like other teen girls, she (gasp!) likes boys, particularly some poor schmuck named Kyle.

“I seemed to forget everything about being a feminist when I was around him” (77), Athena claims.  “I felt like a bad feminist for caring that people saw I was on a date with a hot guy” [198]) is another statement of her infatuation with Kyle.  All of chapter 26 ([262ff]) is an exercise in teen girl angst; she overhears another girl talk with Kyle about his romance with Athena.

Note to the men.  Such ga-ga over a teen boy is just too much for male readers.  However, guys, being an English professor who focuses on fiction dealing with the life issues of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, I read it for you.  Now, go back to football practice.

Of course, the real purpose of Keenan’s novel is political.  Athena goes into an anti-Republican rant when she claims that “Republicans were priming the nation for a fascist dictatorship” (53).  What a classic case of projection!  We in 2020 see politicians in the useless Democratic Party release from jail Antifa domestic terrorists who riot in American cities.  The author herself explains her pro-abortion political propaganda when she states, “I wanted a setting parallel to today’s politics—something close, but not identical, to today” ([415]).

Typical that a pro-abortion writer must ignore contemporary pro-life achievements and turn to 1992 (28 years ago!) to force abortion into a novel merely concerned with a vapid Homecoming.

Thankfully, I can erase the nonsense of this novel with my next novel to review, a masterpiece by Evelyn Waugh.

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Book reviews

Matthew Archbold’s American Antigone (Resource Publications, 2020)

Wicked humor, credible characters, fast pace: all the elements needed for today’s abortion fiction.

Directors looking for solid material for their next film should consider bringing Matthew Archbold’s novel to the big screen.  This 175-page novel makes compelling reading on a controversial topic that will appeal to readers and filmgoers.

Faculty and students of literature will appreciate the novel for its obvious connection with the ancient Greek drama, Antigone by Sophocles.  The comparisons between the ancient Greek drama and the actions developed in twenty-first century America are not restricted merely to the names of the characters and places.  For example, Anne Prince is the modern equivalent of Antigone, a princess in the ancient drama; the name of Anne’s sister Izzy is an abbreviation of Ismene, Antigone’s sister; and the action of the novel occurs in Thebes County, Pennsylvania, the modern equivalent of the ancient Greek city-state Thebes.

Much more importantly, the novel parallels the plot of the ancient Greek drama.  Sophocles’ drama develops the consequences of Antigone’s actions to provide a proper burial for her dead brother, and Archbold’s novel develops the consequences of Anne’s actions to provide a proper burial for her dead brother.

The major difference between Antigone’s brother and Anne’s is that one was born, the other unborn.

Thus, a 2,400-year-old ancient Greek drama is revised to depict the most significant moral problem in American culture—not racism, not illegal aliens flooding the border, but abortion and the status of the unborn child.

Obviously, people who support abortion—which is legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, and which harms mothers, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers—would find themselves in excruciating cognitive dissonance to resolve the moral problem this novel poses.

But that’s all right.  After all, fiction is meant not only to entertain, but also to teach.

Except for the clearly positive characters who live by moral standards, other characters, those who do not live by high moral standards, make uncomfortable reading, but the reader will be delighted in seeing these fictional persons.  It helps to read about hypocrites before engaging with them in the real world.

For example, the Catholic bishop who seems to oppose Anne’s effort to bury the aborted child is reprehensible for his lack of support for an obviously pro-life woman and for threatening the priest who has befriended Anne.  Anne’s Uncle Milton Prince, the newly-appointed prosecutor for Thebes County, is just as reprehensible.

However, readers understand quickly that both of these men operate not on high moral standards as Anne does, but on the basest of utilitarian ethics.  Both Catholic bishop and prosecutor live by “the ends justify the means” principle.  For the bishop, abandoning Anne when she most needs Church support will save valuable resources for other Catholic charities.  For the prosecutor, putting his own niece in jail will show voters that he’s not soft on crime, and getting elected is paramount because only then can he work what he believes are his social justice wonders.  Like his campaign adviser, what’s important is not living according to moral standards, but paying attention to public relations: “the main thing is the visual of the police dragging this bitch out” of the church where she sought sanctuary (95).

Meanwhile, ordinary characters are attacked by Antifa-like domestic terrorists, who try to stop Anne’s effort to bury her aborted brother with screams, physical violence, and near-murderous actions.  The police seem powerless to protect the good guys.  Archbold illustrates cogently and simply how ordinary pro-life people suffer at the hands of those (whether an abortion clinic director, a Catholic bishop, or a power-hungry prosecutor) who believe in sheer power.

The novel is not all political machinations and serious legal action.  Archbold’s humor is brutally wicked. 

For example, the humor with which Archbold treats the press conference that Uncle Milton barely survives (chapter 26, 88ff) is a horrible trauma for him, but a series of laughs for readers who like to see politicians squirm in hostile press conferences.

Similarly, Archbold’s description of Todd Dooley, an Antifa-like pro-abortion activist who lives in his parents’ basement, is brutally funny (chapter 30, 101ff).  The online dialogue that Todd has with other domestic terrorists who want to attack pro-life protesters could have been written as a serious commentary about the ferocity of hateful pro-abortion people.  Instead, Archbold makes us laugh at such feeble adults, more concerned about whether their messages should be contained on another portion of the online message board instead of the general thread.  Throw in comments about sexism, and readers will laugh at these ridiculous people.

Archbold’s work, in summary, both as a novel and as a future film, has something for everybody.  Serious readers who like to read about the resolution of moral problems in a fictional context will enjoy the problems created by a woman who wants to bury her aborted brother’s body while American law decrees that that body is not a human being worthy of such respect.

The relationship between the newspaper reporter Paul, who seems to be concerned only with getting the scoop, and Izzy adds romance to the novel and will enable the eventual film version to be labelled a “chick flick.”

Faculty and students would appreciate this novel for its contemporary adaptation of an ancient controversial dilemma.  Faculty should consider immediately adding this eminently readable 175-page novel to their course lists.

The rest of us ordinary readers can delight in a well-crafted, swiftly-moving plot whose characters make us think long after the reading is finished.

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Book reviews

Deborah Garratt’s Alarmist Gatekeeping: Abortion (2021)

A feminist take on abortion: deceptive communication, censorship, and ways to empower women.

Abortion activists would appreciate this feminist perspective on the topic, which focuses on deceptive communication strategies, efforts to censor diversity of thought, and ways to empower women considering the abortion choice.

Garratt’s research reveals many uncomfortable truths about abortion that do not appear in major media or in various professions, such as the medical community, the legislature, or academia.  She accomplishes the task of uncovering these truths using Grounded Theory, which demands that researchers formulate their ideas based on data obtained in the research instead of fitting the data according to someone’s ideology or political perspective.

Thus, while doctors and legislators may not appreciate the results of her research, ordinary women and men will.

Garratt’s book develops the idea of “Alarmist Gatekeeping” to account for how abortion supporters use specific linguistic and communication strategies to maintain their influence on the public.  Garratt doesn’t use the standard labels usually associated with the factions on the issue.  Instead, she uses “Adherents, Incognisants, and Dissidents” to refer to those who, respectively, believe in, accede to, or oppose the “Dominant Messaging” of keeping abortion legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever.  (Note: since Garratt is an Australian researcher, I retain her British spelling in all cases.)

What Garratt’s research has to say about abortion Adherents is revealing.  Alarmist Gatekeepers on abortion use “two distinct strategies—Alarmist Recruitment and Perspective Gatekeeping—which work together to reinforce each other and perpetuate a cycle of disinformation and censorship” (7).  Abortion Adherents use “strategic ambiguity” to persuade ordinary people to adopt statements which are either false or deceptive, such as “women have the right to control their own bodies” (9).  Abortion Adherents rely on “experts” not so much for impartial data on the controversial issue, but to bolster their public relations image: “Expert status is determined primarily by the person’s strict adherence to upholding abortion rights and by their ability to hold some influence whether in the media or by virtue of their professional position or qualification” (12).

These strategies account for abortion Adherents’ heavy use of negative and alarmist terms (17); manipulation, analyzed into its “deception, intentionality, and advantage” aspects (23); and equivocation (24).  Garratt summarizes abortion Adherents’ linguistic deceptions succinctly when she writes, “Controlling language is a strategic aspect of Alarmist Gatekeeping designed to confuse thinking, override one’s defences, depersonalise, and dehumanise” (27).

Garratt is the first researcher whom I have read to explain in some detail why abortion Adherents oppose efforts by Dissidents (pro-lifers) to assist mothers with untimely pregnancies.  Apparently, in the abortion world, only the mother must “win” (31).  Therefore, abortion Adherents perceive pro-life help for mothers with untimely pregnancies as a threat to abortion itself.  Garratt demonstrates how abortion Adherents are anti-science when she documents how abortionists and clinic staff do not discuss fetal development because it is “pro-lifey” (90).  Abortion Adherents view pregnancy support groups as a threat because such pro-life services are a threat to their Alarmist view of abortion as the only choice which they think women should have (135ff).

A twenty-first century reader leaves Garratt’s research deeply saddened that abortion Adherents are essentially anti-woman for three reasons.

First, abortion Adherents must use language to remove emotion from every abortion, a task which mothers who experience post-abortion syndrome (PAS) cannot escape (32).

Second, when abortion Adherents use dehumanizing language about the unborn child, they themselves adopt patriarchal attitudes against women who regret their abortions.  Garratt rightly points out that such linguistic evasion distances women from their true selves: “Language is used to disconnect women from what is going on inside their bodies, to ignore relationship, as though the entity within is an uninvited stranger, rather than a human being created within them” (34)—a matter which she elaborates later in the book when she further discusses how abortion Adherents are “disconnected” from reality (45).

Garratt suggests a final reason why abortion Adherents oppose accurate information for women on abortion when she counters a key idea from anti-life feminist philosophy, women as “victims”: “Women are not victims of biology, and to teach women such lessons is designed to make them feel inferior instead of feeling in awe of what their bodies can do” (162).

Fortunately, Garratt offers two means that both Incognisants and Dissenters can use to overcome Alarmist Gatekeeping on abortion.  She encourages people, first, to stop censoring themselves by not saying what should be said about abortion and, second, to ask questions of the Dominant Messaging that abortion “needs” to be legal.

Since she is an Australian author, some terms in the book need clarification for US readers.  When she writes about “medical abortion”, Garratt means chemical abortion, as in the RU-486 abortifacient.  Also, the undefined word “furphy”, Australian slang for an erroneous or improbable story claimed to be factual (143), will interrupt the easy reading, but only momentarily.

Overall, Garratt’s research offers an interesting way for feminists to reevaluate their support of a procedure which—based as it is on deception and efforts to stifle dissenting opinions—is more anti- than pro-woman.  Every woman will appreciate knowing how to respond to the abortion movement, which would rather have women subject to their ideology than liberated intellectually.

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Book reviews

Jessica Shaver’s Gianna: Aborted . . . and Lived to Tell About It (Tyndale, 1995)

A detailed biography of an abortion survivor; an account that anti-life feminists cannot refute.

Imagine going to an abortion clinic to have your baby killed by salt poisoning, only to see her emerge from the birth canal, alive and screaming like a regular newborn.

The account of the attempt to kill Gianna Jessen by a saline (salt poisoning) abortion is riveting without being gory.  Chapter one, which narrates the circumstances of her attempted killing in April 1977, is eight pages of right-to-life literature which every abortion activist, both pro- and anti-life, should read.

The rest of the biography of Gianna’s life (up to the book’s publication in 1995) is, as they say, history.  She was adopted into a loving Christian family, pursued her career as a musician, and began travelling extensively to promote the pro-life movement.

It is especially interesting for a reader in 2021 to know that tactics of activists in the anti-life movement have not changed since the 1990s.  The abortionist who tried to kill her was impersonal (6).  Anti-life hostility to people with disabilities is manifest when an anti-lifer screams, “Children with disabilities are a burden to society!” (91).  Anti-lifers heckled pro-lifers with vulgar and profane language in 1991 as Antifa domestic terrorists and pro-abortion Democrats do today (102ff).  Escorts at clinics run by abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood were described as “demonic” then as they can still be described now (119).

Other things about abortion since the 1990s have not changed.  One is the reaction of other aborted mothers to Gianna’s birth: “It’s a baby!” (9).  Another is the effect of post-abortion trauma, this time evidenced in Gianna’s violent reaction to something as normal as a blazing fireplace: “She is subconsciously reliving the abortion.  The roaring and crackling sounds recapitulate the effect of the saline solution as it burned her in the womb” (44-5).  An aborted mother confesses an abortion she had kept secret for years (72-3).  Fortunately, more abortion survivors are bold enough to share their accounts of how they were almost killed (207ff).  It’s difficult being for the “choice” of abortion when a fellow human being states that he or she was almost killed.

Feminists will recoil at the idea, repeated throughout the biography, that mothers who abort are ignorant of their choice: “You didn’t know what you were doing” (72), Gianna tells mothers who disclose their abortions to her.  Pro-abortion feminists want mothers to affirm that their desire to have an abortion is intentional, so this part of the biography would not only offend anti-life feminists, but also intensify the post-abortion syndrome (PAS) that aborted mothers experience.  Fortunately, pro-life psychological services can help mothers overcome the deep regret they have.

The biography has definite flaws.  Beyond the chapter one account, most of this biography is repetitious.  Also, the author refers to herself as “this [or “the”] reporter” when first person would have been smoother.  Despite these flaws, the biography can be read in half a day and qualifies as an important contribution to the literature of pro-life feminism.

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Book reviews

Gretchen Wollert’s Born to Fight: Lincoln & Trump (Cedar Fort, 2021)

Eminently readable study comparing Presidents Lincoln and Trump.

Wollert has written a compelling book, developing the premise that there are numerous parallels between two significant American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump.  Reading the volume will progress quickly because of the author’s clear writing style.

Students will appreciate that the author meets the essentials of scholarly research by citing her sources in endnotes and providing an extensive bibliography.

The implications of the numerous comparisons between Presidents Lincoln and Trump are profound.  The United States is in a cultural civil war which is still “cold.”  Just like President Lincoln during the Civil War, one fears when hostilities would become “hot” between those who support President Trump’s efforts to restore essential American values (free speech and the first civil right to life) vs. those who oppose those values (cancel culture activists and abortionists).

Maybe Antifa domestic terrorists fired the first salvo in a new American civil war when they tried to destroy various communities in 2020.  Cancel culture activists are continuing the assault by trying to censor everything from full-length books (Justice Clarence Thomas’ Created Equal) to films (Gone with the Wind) to children’s cartoons (Pepé Le Pew).  Moreover, everybody knows that Biden wants to force Americans to pay for abortion with their tax dollars both here in the US and abroad.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture activists to ban conservative and pro-life books, I recommend not buying this book on Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher: Cedarfort.com.

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Book reviews

Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (Encounter Books, 2018).

Want to understand gender ideology?  Read this book before the aggressive LGBTQ lobby bans it.

Being transgender is a serious matter, and Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment demonstrates how ridiculous the aggressive transgender lobby has become in its efforts to force its ideology on the nation.

Anderson’s book could be extremely controversial because it offers facts, not irrational opinions by aggressive transgender activists.  He offers common sense and scholarly thought, not unscientific claims by the same aggressive transgender movement.  He often provides interesting tidbits of information which carry significant social implications.

Peppered throughout the work is Anderson’s profound respect for transgendered persons who either are anguished over their sexual confusion or those who have suffered at the hands of doctors, activists, and other gender ideologues who compelled them to undergo sex change surgery.

Anderson does not hesitate to state facts which may make aggressive transgender activists not merely uncomfortable, but belligerent—facts which are obvious to the rest of us who know biology and live in reality.  Perhaps the most controversial (for some) fact is Anderson’s statement of what everybody knows, or at least thought they knew before transgender ideologues hijacked higher education, the media, and the federal government under Obama: the definition of “sex” and “gender.”  “The best biology, psychology, and philosophy”, Anderson writes, “all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex” (2).

An obvious linguistic fact should be remembered by everybody opposed to the aggressive transgender ideology.  Sex is not “assigned”, as though the designation of “boy” or “girl” is forced on someone at his or her birth, but “recognized” for obvious reasons (77).  Anderson discusses genuine cases of sexual ambiguity at birth thoroughly with scientific language, not in the mere opinions of transgender activists.

Another significantly controversial matter, for the aggressive transgender movement at least, is the claim based in scientific research that sex change surgery is “fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness” (17).  Anderson highlights the ridiculousness of the claim that “we should be alarmed (say the [transgender] activists) if a professional tries to help a boy who thinks he’s a girl come to understand that he is actually a boy, seeking to understand the reasons for his false belief and to help him identify with his body” (37).

Anderson admits that discussing transgender ideas may be perplexing to ordinary folk.  “If the claims presented in this chapter strike you as confusing,” he writes, “you’re not alone.  The claims of transgender activists are inherently confused and filled with internal contradictions.  Activists never acknowledge those contractions but opportunistically rely on whichever claim is useful at any given moment” (45).  Similarly, the idea of a man being trapped in a woman’s body and vice versa, Anderson says, “corresponds with the beliefs of many transsexual individuals, who consider it helpful in ‘gaining cultural legitimacy’ for their identity” (109).

Talk about not mincing words!

Anderson’s common sense and scholarly thought is evident throughout the work.  He identifies five areas of concern regarding public policy (6-7) and specifically comments on the effect of the “postmodern worldview” on medical care for transgender persons (18).  He argues cogently “that medical practice is seriously compromised by an ideological agenda” (24) and that this ideology leads to the coercion of those who disagree with transgender activists’ opinions (29). 

Anderson’s discussion of how transgender activists have made their ideology a religion is compelling.  For example, regarding the Gender Unicorn given to school children to indoctrinate them into gender ideology, he offers a concise sentence about the effect this character has on children: “these are the dogmas they are likely to be catechized to profess” (32).

What tidbits of information which carry significant social implications?  I thought it was fascinating that research in newborn boys and girls proves sexual differences, where “boys tend to gravitate toward balls or toy cars [how our grandsons testify to this fact!], whereas girls more typically reach for a doll” [how our granddaughters testify to this fact!].  These sex differences are evident even in monkeys (84-5).

So much for gender being a social construct.

While one tidbit could be a joke on the order of “Smell this!”, it was interesting to read that a father’s pheromones affects a daughter’s puberty: “a father’s presence affects his daughter, as the pheromones released from his body slow down her sexual development.  That makes her less likely to experience early puberty and less likely to be sexually active before marriage.  The rate of teenage pregnancy is far lower among girls who have had a father at home throughout their childhood and adolescence than among those whose father has left the home sometime before they turn eighteen, and this effect is greater the longer a father sticks around” (167).

Conclusion: dads, smell away!  We are helping our daughters to respect their sexuality by just being our hairy, smelly selves.

Joking aside, though, Anderson’s work is well-researched and would thus complement every student’s research paper on transgender issues and politics.  Even the most severe leftist professor would have a difficult time challenging Anderson’s ideas (unless, of course, that leftist professor was tenured and thought he or she could punish a student with impunity for valid research which contradicts his or her idea of gender ideology).

For the rest of us who simply want to know more about the distortion of gender ideology forced on us by the transgender lobby, Anderson’s book is eminently helpful.  The endnotes are filled with bibliographic information, and the index is comprehensive.  Best of all, Anderson’s writing style is professional but not erudite.  For example, the paragraph on the contradictions of transgender thought should be used as an example of exemplary point-by-point contrast writing in every English class (46).  Even if one finds him- or herself making marginal notes on almost every page, the entire work can be read in two days’ time—time well worth the investment.