Book reviews

Bonnie Pipkin’s Aftercare Instructions (Flatiron Books, 2017)

Despite the pro-abortion author’s efforts to make the abortion business Planned Parenthood shine, pro-life readers can cite this book as evidence of the many negatives of the abortion behemoth—aspects that Planned Parenthood’s Marketing and Public Relations departments can never erase.

Of course, the novel has the usual components of an anti-life plot: warped sexuality (fornication), attacks on religious persons, disparaging pro-lifers, and the ambiguous use of language to refer to the unborn child.

For example, Genesis (the selfish and extremely voluble “I”, “me”, and “I” again narrator) is a young woman who is sexually “liberated”; her boyfriends Peter and Seth are just her boy toys.  Parents and grandparents are “old-fashioned” because they are religious and, ostensibly, pro-life.  Genesis’ sense of religion is a reduction to having meditated before theater class (9-10).  Peter’s parents are described as “nutso religo-freak parents” (13).

Since pro-abortion characters cannot refute pro-life ideas, pro-life activists suffer ad hominem attacks as in the case of Peter’s mother, who is demeaned as the “ringleader of our community’s pro-life, anti-choice movement” (38).  In contrast, abortionists are called “doctors” as though using this term would dignify their killing work as much as doctors who save human life (unpaginated 323).

Pipkin employs other standard tactics in the pro-abortion literary repertoire.  For example, she uses the third-person pronoun “it” ambiguously so that a reader cannot determine if that pronoun refers to the abortion procedure or the unborn child killed in that procedure.

For example, the narrator uses ambiguous language in talking about refusing sedation for the abortion when she says, “I wanted to feel it.  I wanted to feel my choice as it left my body” (unpaginated 3).  Does “it” refer to “abortion”, what she thinks is her legal right to “choose” killing another human being, or does that pronoun refer to the child killed?  Oddly, this same language and concept is repeated in one of the drama portions incorporated in this novel when Genesis tells the audience, “I need to feel this.  I need to know it’s real.  I need to feel it leaving.  I need to feel that I’m making a choice and it’s mine” (324).  Again, to what or to whom does “it” refer?

After five decades of anti-life authors writing about the abortion procedure, there is no new way to describe the act of killing, which is why Pipkin’s description of the abortion is clipped and composed of a series of nouns: “I think back.  To the click.  Slip.  Pull.  Snap of rubber gloves and metal wheels over tiled floor and my knees and thighs shaking” (62).  The description of the abortion procedure is repeated towards novel’s end in similarly mechanistic terms; the stage directions in one of the drama portions of the novel refer to “the buzzing sound of a machine” and then later, “The machine stops” (327).

All of these standard pro-abortion wrongs literary tactics are expected from a virulently anti-life author such as Pipkin, who is effusive in her praise of the largest abortion company in the country: “Thank you to Planned Parenthood, where I’ve been receiving safe and affordable care since I was sixteen years old.  Thank you for EVERYTHING you provide to the community without judgment.  I stand with you, always” (356; caps in original).

What is unique in this teen abortion novel is the recognition that Planned Parenthood has sinister sides.  High school and college students trained in close reading, an aspect of formalist literary criticism, will be able to look beyond the author’s pro-abortion bias immediately in the following lines.

For example, when Genesis wonders why Peter has not called her after the abortion, she says, “It’s not like I just had a tooth pulled” (41).  This line counters those anti-life activists who claim that having an abortion is a “simple” procedure, like a tooth extraction.

Similarly, Genesis’ description of the inside of the abortion business counters the best efforts of any pro-abortion marketing brochure.  “In the dingy waiting room where Security makes non-patients sit,” Pipkin writes, “With its gray-lavender walls and daytime television and fluorescent lights.  Trashy magazines and dead eyes” (155).

Another example illustrates Genesis’ frustration not only with her boyfriend, but also, using a typography which indicates shouting, with the business which aborted the child.  Genesis becomes angry over Peter’s leaving her “AT FUCKING PLANNED PARENTHOOD?” (221; all caps in original).  Note that she did not ask, as the author asserts, why Peter left her “at Planned Parenthood, where I’ve been receiving safe and affordable care since I was sixteen years old.  Thank you for EVERYTHING you provide to the community without judgment.  I stand with you, always” (see above for Pipkin’s sickening praise for the abortion company).  The use of the present participle “fucking”, in all caps moreover, suggests not so much a casual use of vulgar language typical of an irreverent and vulgar teen, but Genesis’ unconscious idea that there is something seriously wrong with Planned Parenthood.

Finally, Pipkin’s chapter titles betray Planned Parenthood as a place where medical attention is secondary to its profit-making motives.  Granted, all medical facilities give patients aftercare instructions, but those instructions naturally follow life-saving procedures.  Pipkin’s chapter titles, however, suggest that Planned Parenthood’s aftercare instructions are designed to minimize and cover up the killing which occurs at every one of its offices.

While some chapter titles seem innocuous; “Monitor Bleeding” (unpaginated 36) and “Recovery Times May Vary” (unpaginated 61) meet this criterion, the chapter titles quickly become more sinister as the novel progresses, such as “You May Experience a Wide Range of Emotions” (unpaginated 129) and “Talk to Someone if You Experience Feelings of Detachment” (unpaginated 144).  Given  the large number of mothers who have died at Planned Parenthood “clinics” and other abortion businesses and whose deaths are covered up by the pro-abortion media, the chapter title “Do Not Hesitate to Call with Any Questions” (unpaginated 175) could be translated by a suspicious person to “Call Us Instead of Your Attorney Because This Abortion Business Doesn’t Want to Be Sued.”

Interestingly, a series of even more sinister chapter titles occurs in quick succession, warning the mother who has aborted that “You Are Not Alone” (unpaginated 219), “If Your Temperature Reaches 100.4°, Call Us Immediately” (unpaginated 229), “A Period of Emotional Paralysis Can Occur” (unpaginated 243), “Are You Experiencing Any Regret?” (unpaginated 265), and “Support Groups Are Available” (unpaginated 275).

That a pro-abortion author would include such damning lines as the above in an ostensibly pro-abortion novel is not only fortunate for pro-life activists; it’s also a refreshing bit of honesty from those who support the harming of women, the killing of unborn babies, and the alienation of fathers.

Thank you, Bonnie Pipkin, for writing a novel that pro-lifers can use to protect women from Planned Parenthood!

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