Each January, thousands of young people flock to Washington, D.C. and brave the bitter cold to join the annual March for Life. And even though today marks the 43rd anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, I am still encouraged by the progress we are making toward restoring a culture of life in America—in no small part because of all those young people who continue taking a stand to defend life.
Another, more under-the-radar reason for my optimism is the enduring appeal of books that show a reverence for human life—even though they might not tackle abortion head-on. Here are six books that encourage my hope for creating a stronger culture of life in America. —Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO, Americans United for Life
The Children of Men
P. D. James
I love a good mystery novel, and the late British author P. D. James is a master of that genre. But one of my favorite works of hers is a science-fiction novel called The Children of Men. It’s a dystopian tale set in a dark and forbidding future where the entire world has been mysteriously afflicted with infertility. No one knows why, but there are no more children being born. No spoilers here, but the fact that James depicts a world without babies as a world bereft of hope is a powerful and thought-provoking pro-life statement.
Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go is another dystopian science-fiction novel that tackles the question of what makes us human, and ends up with a complicated but powerful pro-life message. We see the story through three young people raised in a boarding school, and we follow their friendship as they grow and mature. Through the characters’ exploration of their purpose in life, we’re invited to think deeply about the value of each individual life.
The Man in the High Castle
Philip K. Dick
True confession: I have not actually read The Man in the High Castle. But I’ve downloaded an audio version because my husband and I have so enjoyed the film series adaptation on Amazon. The premise, in this work of historical fiction, is that the United States has lost World War II and is now occupied by both the Germans and the Japanese. Of course, any story touching on World War II can’t escape questions about the value of life—and in the alternate reality the novel depicts, devaluation of the individual is a recurring feature. One haunting scene stands out in particular: A character notices a strange ash-like substance whirling around him in the air. When he asks about it, another character responds, very casually: "Oh, it’s the hospital. On Tuesdays they burn the cripples and the terminally ill."
Tippets, a young mother of four and a pastor’s wife, died last March after a recurrence of cancer. Her memoir, The Hardest Peace, is deeply tragic and heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting. I first heard of Tippetts after she wrote a public letter to Brittany Maynard, the young woman with terminal brain cancer who ultimately took her own life. The letter asked Brittany to reconsider and embrace the life that she had left to live. It is powerful and humbling to read this testimony about finding grace and peace when forced to face one’s own mortality. Although the book is about facing death, it fundamentally underscores the value of life.
Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness
In early January, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the National Women’s Law Center both filed amicus briefs in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, arguing that women’s “dignity” and equal citizenship is dependent on unfettered access to abortion. The CRR brief was signed by over 100 female attorneys, all arguing that abortion was essential to their professional success. This case is the first challenge to a pro-life law that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear in nearly a decade, and oral arguments will be heard in early March.
Do women really rely on abortion for their power and status in society? These two books, written by leading figures in the evangelical pro-life community, serve as an effective rebuttal to that line of argument. Fierce Convictions is a terrific biography of Hannah More, an abolitionist and a good friend and colleague of William Wilberforce who invested her life in defending human beings, rather than rationalizing their destruction. And the incomparable Eric Metaxas gives us chapter-length biographies of Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks. In different ways, each of these women invested their lives in a defense and elevation of life. Their stories provide inspiration, and examples of genuine feminine power and greatness.