Book Review: Women on Life by Trillia Newbell

This review was originally published on Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Women’s Life Blog.

A war has been waged on the assumption that women bear the right to end the life of their unborn babies, and to say anything to the contrary is to be vehemently anti-woman. The pro-choice argument has planted its flag on women’s rights, but as Christians, we know this argument is neither for women nor their rights. It is a heartbreaking reality women are confronted with too often.

And yet the pro-life argument is neither against women nor restricted to the sole issue of abortion. It’s been forty-three years since abortion was legalized in the United States, but I wonder if the abortion industry might not have prevailed so long if more Christians had a holistic view of what it means to be pro-life. It is no wonder I have been anxiously excited to read this book, Women on Life, and sit under the words of Christian women engaging the battlefield about the far-reaching tentacles of what it means to be “pro-life.”

There has long been a culture in our churches of staunch advocacy for the unborn life, but a failure to advocate for the lives of miscarried babies, high-risk pregnancy babies and their mothers, special needs children and adults, the elderly, and so many more demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of our Father’s view on the value and dignity that he ascribes to every person.

Our enemy, Satan, is cunning, and he has deceptively lulled many Christians into the belief that they can be pro-life and ignore the realities of cherishing the imago Dei(image of God) in all human beings. Being pro-life is certainly not less than advocating for the lives of these precious unborn babies, and we absolutely should, but as the women in this book share, it encompasses so much more.

Trillia Newbell does an excellent job compiling and editing the essays and interviews from several women involved in the pro-life movement from vastly varied perspectives. The book is broken down into four categories; sex, the beginning of life, life and the family, and protecting life.

Recognizing that an unhealthy view of sex leads to great pain, loss, and destruction, it is certainly an appropriate place to begin. The culture around us speaks night and day about sex, but our children, our single adults, and our married adults need to hear the truth about sex from trustworthy sources. In her chapter, Candice Watters makes it clear that it is parents’ responsibility to foster an environment where their children feel comfortable discussing sex with them, not because children open up the first conversation, but because parents have already cracked the door.

However, Catherine Parks in her chapter, “Pursuing Purity,” says it is not just parents having conversations with their children, but churches have a responsibility to teach unashamedly the truth about sex to our marrieds and singles alike. Let the church influence the culture, not based on any scheme of legalism, but on the fundamental truth that Christ is our greatest pleasure.

An area I have personally witnessed a need for a pro-life response is in regards to those who have experienced miscarriages or high-risk pregnancies. In her chapter, Courtney Reissig says,

“The world tells us that babies who are frail, babies who are sick, babies who don’t stand a chance, aren’t worth celebrating, aren’t worth saving, and aren’t worth acknowledging. But we know a better answer” (62).

We discredit our pro-life views when we are unwilling to mourn the loss of these babies, or care for a mother who finds herself under the weight of anxiety over the frail life of her baby. Instead, we are encouraged throughout the book that to honor the lives of these babies is to get into the muddied trenches of pain and grief to care for them and their families.

We are also reminded that being pro-life means caring about adoption, foster children, special needs children, blended families, single mothers, the elderly and widows. I love this statement from Jennifer Case Coretez in the book:

“The human experience is marked with pain from birth until death, but it is also marked with joy and beauty and pleasure. We accept one with the other”(95).

As soon as I read it I thought to myself, Yes! It is the life that we are called to in our Christian faith, to bear one another’s burdens, to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Even more so, our call is to ascribe the same value and dignity to each person with which our Creator has intrinsically designed him or her. We do this by helping the single mother with daily life struggles, using the gifts of our elderly in our churches and learning from their time-tested wisdom, providing respite care for the family with a special needs child, and adopting and fostering children who are without families.

For those who have miscarried or experienced a high-risk pregnancy, have adopted children who come with issues and baggage, have a special needs child, live with the guilt of sexual sin, or those who are elderly and no longer feel useful to the church, Christ says your babies and your lives are valuable! Sisters, we need to honor one another through the grief and anxiety that comes with miscarriages and high-risk pregnancies, through the difficult circumstances of adoption and the temper tantrums of our special needs children, through healing restoration Christ gives from sexual sin, and by loving to learn from our elderly.

If we have in ourselves any unwillingness to honor these lives, we will find a line of hypocrisy the world around us will expose, and even worse, we give a foothold to our enemy. But our hope is in Christ. He came to save the world. All human life matters to him, and he cares more deeply than we can fathom for each life the world says is “unfit,” “inconvenient,” “easily discarded,” “no longer useful,” and “only good for parts.”

These women offer us an age-old battle plan with new applications. While I certainly encourage women to read this book, I also encourage pastors, church planters, and laymen and laywomen of the church to read it and apply it. Should our 43-year battle become 100, let the Lord find us without hypocrisy and holistically on the right side.

The book is Women on Life, edited by Trillia Newbell.

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