Abortion in Contemporary Literature:
Life-Affirming Messages in Fiction and Films and Public Policy Implications

Jeff J. Koloze
Published 2014
Reproduced with Permission

It is common knowledge needing no scholarly citation that contemporary art and culture, mostly transmitted through the media, affect how people perceive family life, just as the rapid disclosure of the seedier and steamier sides of dysfunctional families on tell-all, "reality" television shows affects how people perceive family life, just as the depictions of women and "baby daddies" in rap music affect how people perceive family life. The list of "just as" similarities can continue until the presumed causes of the offensive circumstances in which the American family finds itself are exhausted.

Granted, drug use has increased and sexual exploits seem to know no boundaries, and one can conjecture that the increases in these two categories can be attributed to images broadcast by film, Internet, or television to a young, impressionable audience, but this is not the place to continue the debate regarding the effects of television on contemporary youth. Certainly, the influence of American media on how people perceive the family may be profound, but it is exaggerated. While the artists in contemporary culture are attractive, the cause and effect relationship which is supposed to exist between perceptions of the American family and how families are lived may be inconclusive and in one important respect faulty. Most people may emulate the perfect man or woman depicted in the latest television show or action film. The reality, however, is that most people can admire the actors themselves for their own personal beauty or dramatic qualities yet keep the actors' morality at a comfortable and satisfactory distance.

Moreover, what many in the technologically-saturated contemporary culture may not realize is that the traditional literary forms - books and other publications - still have a powerful influence on the culture. Ours is not solely a technological world. 1 Short stories may become novels, which in turn take the format of books, whether hardcopy or online, which then become films. Similarly, poems published in hardcopy or online journals gain currency as songs, Facebook or YouTube posts, or Twitter tweets. Whatever the means of production, of course, the result is the same: materials are written for consumption, first for the benefit of authors and publishers who want to make money and, second, for the general public.

This paper argues a more radical and specific position regarding the connection between reading tastes and political opinion. The effect of contemporary literature on Americans' positions on a controversial issue like abortion may be not only grossly overstated, but also a significant factor in the increasing number of Americans who identify themselves as pro-life.

Fissures in the anti-life hold on American public opinion were noted early by abortion activists such as Frances Kissling, who tried to account for the decrease in popular support for the status quo of legalized abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever in a January 2013 Time interview thus:

The established pro-choice position - which essentially is: abortion should be legal, a private matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the woman's health - makes 50% of the population extremely uncomfortable and unwilling to associate with us. 2

The more sophisticated polling resources of Gallup show a longitudinal trend favoring the pro-life view since 1995. According to May 2014 research, 47% of Americans identify themselves as pro-choice, while 46% identity as pro-life, the trajectory of 13% support for the pro-life position exceeding the 9% decline in support for the opposing position. 3

How literature on abortion portrays family life is one thing and is easily documented. How it affects readers' habits and family life is another matter which necessarily crosses into speculation that provides not only social science researchers, but also literary critics the opportunity to test various hypotheses. For example, is it possible that the strident life-denying orientation of most contemporary literature has the opposite effect of creating a more life-affirming population? If Americans are inundated with depressing stories about mothers who purport to be liberated (and, following the standard feminist terminology, manifest such liberation from patriarchal oppression by aborting the children whom they carry), and if the saturation point of literature concerning abortion is merely that, a saturation (which is by connotation dominantly negative, implying that the original force of an argument cannot capture the recipient's attention if it is communicated too frequently), then could the dominance of life-denying views in contemporary literature simply repel people so much that they move to a life-affirming ethic? These two conditional clauses may be especially evident in literary study on abortion literature.

Consider the interplay between reading life-denying fiction and the need for a satisfactory denouement to the fictional world that an author conveys. When one reads fiction which is life-denying, the negative perceptions of the family transmitted through media sources is merely ratified; there is no counter to the depressing picture that such life-denying fiction illustrates. Subsequently, one may feel psychically compelled to read a work of fiction which is not only entertaining, but also life-affirming - not necessarily light (as in devoid of philosophical speculation), but certainly engaging and, optimally, one which has a satisfactory, if not necessarily happy, denouement. This psychological tendency may account for some who prefer the well-constructed plots of Charles Dickens' Bleak House (1852-3) or Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome (1987), both of which are life-affirming despite their negative-sounding titles, to the morbid, fragmented narratives of Kathy Acker's Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream (1986) or Mark Powell's The Dark Corner (2012).4

Moreover, if the unsatisfying denouement of life-denying fiction repels American readers by virtue of its not supplying a satisfactory ending, then a corollary is possible. The psychological effect of the dispiriting life-denying work that characterizes most contemporary fiction may have the result of making Americans more pro-life, if only because such life-denying work forces one to find something positive in life. Although future research is needed to establish a possible correlation between readers' practices and changes in personal philosophy on the life issue of abortion, enough data exists in terms of commercial success of life-affirming fiction and novels to justify this claim beyond mere anecdotal evidence.

Recent Critical Commentary on Abortion Literature

While a recent study (2003) of academic perceptions of abortion in literary criticism has been published elsewhere, 5 the trends that were identified then are still valid in 2014. Literary criticism of abortion in contemporary fiction is obscured by the often stultifying use of anti-life terminology, which subordinates study of the unborn child to the interests of his or her mother and which rarely discusses the role of the unborn child's father in the narrative. Three recent examples of literary criticism concerning abortion demonstrate the inherent bias against the pro-life viewpoint.

Meg Gillette's 2012 summary of abortion narratives identifies social interests which she believes result from those works' discussion of the issue:

While, no doubt, modern abortion plots aren't just about abortion - they deal with a host of other issues ranging from "spiritual sterility" to "modern individualism" to "female creative power" to the "failure of left-wing politics", etc. - certainly, one of the things modern abortion narratives are about is abortion. Taking advantage of its generic possibilities - its creative license to draw connections and invest symbolic meaning, its cloak of authorial innocence (i.e., the writer isn't speaking publicly about abortion, the fictional characters are), its broad audience of diverse reading publics - modern literature created a significant abortion discourse during the early twentieth century, one that moved abortion into the realm of social reality, shattered the medical community's hold on abortion, and created interested publics ready and authorized to judge abortion for themselves. 6

Despite the tautology of the opening sentence quoted above ("modern abortion plots [….] are about […] abortion"), the violation of civil rights called abortion apparently does not merit inclusion into "the realm of social reality" worthy of literary critical discussion.

Karyn Valerius' 2013 study of abortion narratives is relevant only as an example of how a life-denying perspective of The Silent Scream (1984) can yield little in terms of literary criticism. Granting her anti-life bias, after challenging the validity of the abortion shown in the film and the credentials of Bernard Nathanson, Valerius argues that

Abortion opponents have continued to rely on horrifying gothic narratives to promote opposition to abortion and to deter individual women from terminating their pregnancies. Anti-abortion gothic narratives also discredit physicians and other health care workers who provide abortion care by transferring to legitimate abortion providers the stigma attached to the criminal abortionist who was vilified in both nineteenth and twentieth-century versions of the horrors of illegal abortion. 7

Unfortunately, since the premise preceding these conclusions is faulty ("Abortion is not intrinsically horrific" 8 ), one can discard her suggestions, especially since the causal chain that she attempts to establish is based on her attack on the film instead of a logical correlation between the genuine concerns of pro-life activists and their fight to restore the first civil right to life through protective laws founded on medical opinion.

Finally, the abstract for Gretchen Sisson's and Katrina Kimport's May 2014 study of abortion films and television episodes is much too ambiguous and does not provide any detail sufficient for extensive literary analysis here:

Abortion-related plotlines occur more frequently than popular discourse assumes. Year-to-year variation in frequency suggests an interactive relationship between media representations, cultural attitudes and policies around abortion regulation, consistent with cultural theory of the relationship between media products and social beliefs. 9

While anti-life plots "occur more frequently", what is not expressed is the impact on viewers' beliefs. Thus, these words can indicate that abortion films which have a life-affirming perspective may have more impact in the ambiguous terrain "between media products and social beliefs" than anti-lifers would have elected officials and the general public believe.

Characteristics of Life-Denying Abortion Literature

Based on this author's research into American (and now world) literature on abortion, prominent titles throughout the twentieth century have had a decidedly life-denying bias. Whether written by representatives of the literary establishment early in the century like Theodore Dreiser or Ernest Hemingway, 10 by avant garde authors in the 1960s like Richard Brautigan, or late twentieth century authors such as the notoriously anti-life John Irving, the attributes and functions of characters in these abortion stories have been relatively stable.

What are the attributes of characters in twentieth-century abortion literature, whether manifested in novels or films? 11 First, when these characters discuss their abortion decisions and act on their abortion impulses, they do so in a vacuum of religious beliefs. While the lack of religious foundation of the characters in abortion fiction has been studied elsewhere, 12 it is noteworthy that the stereotype of abortion characters with little or no religious convictions has endured throughout the century. 13

Besides the lack of religious direction, a second characteristic of characters in abortion short stories and novels is that they are bereft of family considerations. Whether it is Roberta in Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1925), Vida in Brautigan's The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 (1971), or characters in various abortion films such as 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2008), abortion works with a decidedly anti-life perspective cannot rely on a loving mother, a concerned father, or a circle of extended family members (grandparents and other relatives) who can assist the mother so that she chooses life for her unborn child and saves herself from a procedure that will harm her emotionally and physically.

Finally, a corollary of the preceding attribute but one which must be discussed separately, the staple characters of life-denying novels are largely alone in the world, either pre- or post-abortion, finding no one in whom they can confide their sorrow. This sense of alienation is evident even when the author tries to make a hero out of his or her pro-abortion character. The attempt fails, of course, because the ancient wisdom surrounding abortion as an evil act simply cannot be refuted by a contemporary author who thinks that his or her 300-page novel will undo centuries of a connotation deeply entrenched in the psyche of the reading public. Moreover, consistent with the moral aspect, abortion generates sadness because it is a manifestation of the disruption in the spiritual lives of characters, an example of the cosmic battle between life-denying and life-affirming spiritual forces in the Judeo-Christian world. Perhaps this is why the film Obvious Child , which is styled a comedy although it is a highly politicized statement on abortion, is now commonly considered a box office flop. There simply is nothing comedic about abortion. 14

The myopic life-denying (and often strident anti-life) perspective of dominant American literature crosses age categories and genres. Elsewhere, the bias in American literature against the pro-life perspective has been discussed in specific works of drama, 15 fiction, 16 and poetry; in works for adults and teens; within specific ethnic groups (such as the larger American culture, European literature, Arabic literature, and South Korean literature); and within important minority groups in the United States, including African Americans and Latinos. 17 Consistently, across all categories, characters in abortion works illustrating an anti-life perspective experience grief, fail in other relationships, lack consoling family members, and feel awkward in their worlds. This last attribute may account for some life-denying works which are properly deemed not so much dystopias, as in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1986), but often fantastical creations of worlds where the restoration of the first civil right to life involves the impositions of ultraconservative principles, as in Hillary Jordan's When She Woke (2011).

Representative Life-Denying Fiction

While this novel has been considered elsewhere, 18 John Irving's The Cider House Rules (1985) exemplifies the dominant characteristics of life-denying writing. It is significant that Homer, the young man mentored by the abortionist Larch, is an orphan. That he has no family history and background is a crucial ingredient in the plot, which shows Homer moving from a position where he thinks that fetal life should not be killed to the utterly utilitarian view that he will assist Larch in performing abortions because that will constitute his "usefulness" in life.

The above plot summary severely reduces the nearly six-hundred page work, but some discussion vis-à-vis the contentions in this paper must be addressed. Homer and Larch have no religious identification; in fact, abortion is viewed sacrilegiously as the "Lord's work" by both. The passage wherein Homer contemplates the "rules" of his environment and life in general do not lead to a theological foundation; he considers them man-made and therefore alterable. Many characters suffer from irreparably broken families; besides the orphans who reside in the institution where Homer and Larch perform abortions, the lives of individual orphans are depicted in their futile efforts to achieve success in the outside world. Mothers who come to the orphanage for abortions are obviously keeping their desires secret, thus indicating that they could not trust their parents or support systems at home. The characters' sense of alienation from society is evident in many ways; Larch himself overdoses to be able to endure his abortion work at the orphanage (later, it is assumed that a fatal overdose was deliberate), and Homer in adulthood returns to the orphanage but under a false identity as the aptly-named Fuzzy Stone.

Sometimes, life-denying novels border on the fantastic, as has been noted above with Hillary Jordan's When She Woke . Jordan's dystopia involves a world where mothers who aborted are punished by having their skin color changed to red, just as Hester Prynne, her sixteenth-century namesake in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850), was forced to wear the eponymous letter as an indication of her adultery. Jordan's novel operates on the premise that an ultraconservative government has conspired to pass sanctity of life laws which brand aborted mothers to endure such skin chromatizing as their punishment. Of course, in Jordan's fictive world, Hannah Payne overcomes the powerful forces that would entrap her in a body of red and escapes to Quebec.

An essential difference between the Hawthorne classic and her own novel seems to have escaped Jordan, however. Where Hawthorne's novel is life-affirming, Jordan's is life-denying. Hawthorne's Hester Prynne did commit adultery, but she did not abort her child, Pearl. Jordan's novel, in contrast, begins with the heroine, Hannah Payne, having aborted her child. While Hawthorne's Hester struggles to assert her appropriately life-affirming feminist position in Puritan New England and eventually succeeds, Jordan's Hannah simply makes a mess of her life. Instead of living her life under admittedly antagonistic circumstances, Hannah accepts a plan to flee the country, engaging in a lesbian affair along the way, and abandoning all hope of ever seeing her father and her lover, both of whom deeply love her.

Above all sordid details of the plot, the educated reader has to wonder why Jordan believes that aborted mothers would be chromatized instead of accepted by loving family members. Why does she think that pro-lifers are so vindictive that they would impose terrorist-like sanctions against mothers who have aborted?

Based on the compassionate and selfless care that those who run pregnancy support groups provide for mothers with untimely pregnancies, it should be obvious that the vindictiveness of the novel would not manifest itself when a constitutional amendment restoring the first civil right to life is ratified. Thus, while the plot of Jordan's novel is finely written, the premise is untenable. When the Human Life Amendment is eventually passed, pro-lifers will not seek to have mothers who have aborted chromatized. What will happen when the amendment is ratified, of course, is that mothers will once again have the reproductive right to give birth to the unborn whom they carry. Fathers will once again have the reproductive right to "man up" and care not only for their lovers or wives, but also for the unborn babies whom they helped to create. Finally, society will not suffer the consequences of millions of abortions performed every year on mothers who think they have no help in carrying the unborn to term.

The American family is indeed in dire straits, and life-denying films can serve a vital (in the sense of life-affirming) function, showing people what their families should avoid becoming if they are to be successful. The didactic purpose of anti-life literature, of course, has political implications. If American political leaders want families to be unstable, then they will keep the status quo. However, if American political leaders want families which are stable and which contribute to the economic life of the nation, then they must be courageous enough to say that drastic changes are needed. It is ironic that the drastic changes are essentially the millennia-old deposits of family wisdom: a father and a mother join together to beget and raise children, whom they love and to whom they transmit the wisdom of the millennia so that their children can increase the knowledge base and become successful.

Representative Life-Affirming Literature

In contrast to the situations that life-denying fiction offers, for the past two decades there has been a rise in fiction which addresses pro-life themes not only honestly, but also courageously. For example, life-affirming fiction has addressed pregnancy resulting from rape and the dire situation in which a mother may find herself if she loses employment and has an untimely pregnancy. Often, the literary works are well-written and not as didactic as some would expect, especially from the Christian fiction sector.

One constant in the fictional milieu that constitutes contemporary life-affirming abortion literature is the role of the traditional family. While life-denying literature is replete with characters who are bereft of a stable family situation, life-affirming literature, in contrast, is much more radical. Such literature dares to show that the familial trinity of father-mother-child is able to overpower any obstacle hurled at the family unit. Although several examples illustrate not only the role, but also the importance of the traditional family in the resolution of the abortion crises facing American women, two will suffice here to demonstrate the standards that life-affirming fiction follow.

Francine Rivers' The Atonement Child (1997) is the story of Dynah who becomes pregnant by an unknown rapist. Dynah's pro-life convictions are severely tested throughout the novel. She refuses estrogen therapy to abort any possible pregnancy from her rape. Her fiancé, who wants to be a minister, would agree to an abortion, and his compromised values suggest that he may be questioning his love for Dynah. When she realizes that she may be pregnant, Dynah's friend recommends abortion as a solution to the problem. Given such pressures from peers and professionals, one would think that Dynah will abort her child.

What saves her and the unborn child, though, is the network of family members who confront the challenges facing Dynah. Hannah, Dynah's mother, "had sacrificed […] a child" when she was nineteen. 19 Dynah's father demands that she have an abortion, and it is obvious in the depiction that the father is biased and viciously angry. In contrast, Dynah's grandmother mentions how she had a therapeutic abortion which she regretted. The novel refers to religious values frequently, and the incorporation of religious elements supports the plot instead of merely being a source for didactic Christian pronouncements. Eventually, Dynah gives birth to a daughter. At novel's end, it is obvious that Dynah is fully integrated into her society.

The second work illustrating life-affirming values has been discussed at length elsewhere, 20 but the importance of Bella (2006 film, followed by the 2008 book) cannot be underestimated. Garnering significant awards from the film industry, Bella exemplifies standard characteristics of life-affirming fiction. The plot for both film and novel is simple: Nina becomes pregnant, loses her job, and considers abortion, but, thanks to the kindness of José, gives birth to the child.

While deeper analysis of the plot is unnecessary for purposes of this study, what is necessary to consider is the contrast in family dynamics evident between Nina and José's family. Nina has no family support. Her religious background is unspecified. The father of the child would support her only by paying half of the cost of an abortion. When unmarried mothers lose their jobs under current economic circumstances and when those mothers are irreligious, have no support systems, and have no moral basis to distinguish between abortion, adoption, or giving birth, then abortion seems an ineluctable choice. In contrast, José and his family are imbued with devotion to family and religious values, including tolerance for a young woman who seems intent on abortion. Nina is strongly affected by the love that she sees among members of José's family.

Given such family support, a stark contrast with her own experiences, Nina chooses a life-affirming outcome. That the viewing audience has made Bella a box office success (having earned over $12 million in foreign and domestic receipts) 21 is evidence that the American viewing public is eager to support films which offer a life-affirming denouement of what could have been a typical life-denying abortion film.

The second example of life-affirming fiction is the 2009 film Sarah's Choice , which is an account of a successful young woman who places her career first and becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, Matt, who is all consumed with getting-rich-quick schemes. Sarah's father is dead (she is still assisting her mother by paying bills for her father's care years earlier), and she blames God for not listening to her mother's prayers to have her father recover. Sarah thinks that her family engages in too much "God talk"; her mother is a devout Protestant Christian. Sarah's friend, who had an abortion when she was a teenager, encourages her not to tell Matt about the pregnancy.

In the climactic scene, Sarah follows a customary religious practice among Protestant Christians of turning her problem over to God and seeking His help in her situation. At film's end, Sarah decides not to abort the baby; Matt essentially sets aside his childish ways and vows that he will become the man that he should be. As a final gesture of the sanctifying grace surrounding Sarah's choice, Sarah's friend performs a post-abortive healing practice of releasing a balloon with a message to her unborn child, thus signifying that even this calloused woman has come to terms with her devastating abortion choice.

Just as there are fantastic elements in Jordan's life-denying novel When She Woke , there are fantastic elements in this film. Modeled after Dickens' A Christmas Carol , Sarah is told that she will receive three visions which will assist her in making her choice about her unintended pregnancy. The first vision shows Sarah with her newborn baby, the second shows her grown daughter preparing breakfast for her, and the final vision shows Matt and Sarah as grandparents. While critical commentary about this direct-to-video film is scant, 22 Sarah's Choice simply tells a good story with heartwarming elements, showing how ordinary people handle real problems.

Policy Recommendations

Although it may seem incongruous to have literary critics suggest policy recommendations (one thinks that social scientists would be more active in efforts to persuade executive or legislative bodies to a certain line of thinking), what literature provides as entertainment satisfies only one aspect of Horace's bifurcation (that all literature is meant to entertain and to teach). The teaching element of the purposes of literature therefore justifies the intervention of the literary critic into social policy. Specifically, based on what literature shows regarding abortion in contemporary works, the literary critic has a severe responsibility to offer suggestions on how the fragmentation and destruction of families evident in abortion literature can be avoided.

At least four recommendations could assist the American family to avoid the dejected, dispirited, and horribly fragmented situations that abortion decisions create.

First, promote a culture of respect for the triad of the mother, the father, and the unborn child. As simplistic as this sounds, one can grant that, given literary research over the past half century (consistent with the rise of the second wave feminism in the United States), a myopic emphasis on the role of the woman in reproductive choices has dominated the academy. The respect which the father of an unborn child should have is negligible if not completely absent, given the philosophical position that his role in reproductive choice is subservient to the wishes of the mother herself. Executive and legislative bodies can stimulate such respect by promoting programs which encourage the mother to exercise her reproductive right to give birth and by continuing fatherhood initiative programs.

Second, state and national endowments could coordinate services to compile oral and Internet histories of life-affirming activists and artists. Such was the case with oral histories funded through Depression-era agencies like the Works Progress Administration and arranged now through veterans' services to record testimonies from World War II soldiers. The literary creations of the pro-life movement are as unique as its non-fiction material, and firsthand accounts, unhindered by biased publication venues, of the creative processes used by various authors would prove invaluable for literary historians.

Third, executive and legislative bodies can recognize life-affirming works with appropriate honors. Such honors would not involve significant amounts of taxpayer dollars, but would generate prestige. Having a life-affirming work recognized by a legislative body enshrines the principles that form the legislative history of the nation, thereby strengthening the foundation for life-affirming laws. Candidates whose work affirmed respect for life include Walker Percy for his novel The Thanatos Syndrome (1987).

Finally, the conversation, begun in the 1980s, about ratifying a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution and abandoned because of difficult political circumstances in the United States in subsequent decades, must resume. The passage of a Human Life Amendment is a paramount legislative effort that is rarely discussed in the fictional literature; one thinks of Sue Robinson's extremely biased The Amendment (1990). The situation is indeed precarious and demands a response from public officials, especially now that anti-life forces are agitating for the legalization of infanticide and euthanasia. While Peter Singer's pro-infanticide views are well-known in pro-life circles, that he advocates the killing of the handicapped newborn is not yet common knowledge by the general public. Much more open is the drive to legalize assisted suicide, a form of euthanasia, which began with literary efforts to show the futility of the lives of ill and infirm human beings. 23 Adoption of a Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution would restore the order of traditional respect for the unborn, the handicapped newborn, and the elderly, thus averting two more social disasters if infanticide and euthanasia were enshrined in law. Such an amendment would lay the constitutional grounds for an enduring, vibrant, and life-affirming literature for the nation.

The body of literary evidence showing the disastrous effects that legalization of abortion has had on the American family is as substantial as the medical and legal non-fiction literature. Legislators who rely on scholarly, non-fiction sources only to determine appropriate life-affirming laws are neglecting a significant element in the abortion controversy. It is the literary record that shows the pain of mothers who have aborted, the anguish of fathers who have no standing to protect the children they helped to create, and the alienation that abortion still causes in society. Legislators and other public officials would do well to enact and implement life-affirming laws which redress the grievances evident in the fictional literature of the past century and to promote an environment friendly to life-affirming literature.


1  This claim must be tempered by research conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts, which argued a distinction between "reading" and "literary reading." Although literary reading has declined, the NEA's report concludes that "the decline in reading correlates with increased participation in a variety of electronic media, including the Internet, video games, and portable digital devices." Thus, while traditional book reading was the focus of the NEA's survey (respondents were asked if they read "any novels, short stories, plays, or poetry in their leisure time" ix), the possibility exists that Americans are "reading" more eclectic online material, thus qualifying them as "readers." Cf. National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk:A Survey of Literary Reading in America; Research Division Report #46 , June 2004, Web. [ Back ]

2  Kate Pickert, "What Choice?," Time , January 14, 2013, Web. [ Back ]

3  Lydia Saad, "U.S. Still Split on Abortion: 47% Pro-Choice, 46% Pro-Life; No Decline in Voters Who Prioritize Abortion Issue, Now at 19%," Gallup.com, May 22, 2014, Web. [ Back ]

4  Cf. the author's "Bizarre Fiction on the Right to Life Issues," Lifeissues.net, 20 June 2003, Web. [ Back ]

5  Cf. the author's "Academic Perceptions of Abortion: A Review of Humanities Scholarship Produced Within the Academy," Lifeissues.net, August 18, 2003, Web. [ Back ]

6  Meg Gillette, "Modern American Abortion Narratives and the Century of Silence," Twentieth Century Literature 58.4 (Winter 2012), 680 (internal citations omitted). [ Back ]

7  Karyn Valerius, "A Not-So-Silent Scream: Gothic and the US Abortion Debate," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 34.3 (2013), 42. [ Back ]

8   Ibid . [ Back ]

9  Gretchen Sisson and Katrina Kimport, "Telling Stories About Abortion: Abortion-Related Plots in American Film and Television, 1916-2013," Contraception 89.5 (May 2014), 413-8. [ Back ]

10  As Gillette writes in a copious first footnote to recent research, "From 1900 to 1945, abortion appeared in a wide range of canonical, political, avant-garde, and popular texts", many of the works which she cites being ones which this author has examined elsewhere. [ Back ]

11  Using the word "texts" would have been better here, but doing so would have segregated this essay for literary critics and academicians instead of the public reading this article. While "literature" suggests hardcopy material which has been established as important works of fiction, "literature" in the late twentieth and the twenty-first century often refers to cinematic and electronic formats of individual works. Moreover, both life-denying and life-affirming messages are often broadcast to the general public in the more economical cinematic forms first, especially through electronic resources, instead of hardcopy monographs subject to publishing companies' costs and promotional abilities. [ Back ]

12  Cf. the author's An Ethical Analysis of the Portrayal of Abortion in American Fiction: Dreiser, Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Brautigan, and Irving , Studies in American Literature 78 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005). [ Back ]

13  This fact of publishing history is true, at least, among works published by major houses. Smaller Christian publishing firms have done much to redress the imbalance between life-denying and life-affirming works. [ Back ]

14  Cassy Fiano, "Abortion Comedy 'Obvious Child' Flops at the Box Office," Lifenews.com, July 3, 2014. BoxOfficeMojo.com reports $2.9 million in revenue, which contrasts against the revenue for October Baby , a film with a life-affirming theme, which earned $5.4 million. Revenue figures are as of August 3, 2014. [ Back ]

15  Cf. the author's "'We a People Who Give Children Life': Pedagogic Concerns of the Aborted Abortion in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun," NAAAS - Together We Can Make It Work; Proceedings of the National Association of African American Studies, February 11-15, 1997, Houston, Texas , Ed. Lemuel Berry, Jr. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1997, 800-19. The paper is online at http://lifeissues.net/writers/kol/kol_08raisininthesun.html . [ Back ]

16  Cf. the author's "Breaking the Linguistic Permafrost of Current American Anti-Life Fiction: A Guide for Students of Literature," University Faculty for Life, September 11, 2003, Web. [ Back ]

17  Cf. the author's essays on Lifeissues.net. [ Back ]

18  Cf. the author's "Cinematic Treatment of Abortion: Alfie (1965) and The Cider House Rules (1999)," Lifeissues.net, June 15, 2006, Web. [ Back ]

19  Francine Rivers, The Atonement Child (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1997), 124. [ Back ]

20  Cf. the author's "Latino Literature on the Life Issues: Commentary on Tato Laviera's 'Jesús Papote,' Judith Ortiz Cofer's 'Silent Dancing,' and Bella", Journal of Teaching and Learning 1.4 (2012): 53-62. The essay is also available at http://lifeissues.net/writers/kol/kol_32latinoliteratureprolife.html . Bella is also one of twenty-four pro-life works considered essential for a canon of right-to-life literature; please see "Anthology of Right-to-Life Literature: Establishing the Canonical Maturity of a Vibrant Social Force," published at http://lifeissues.net/writers/kol/kol_33anthology.html . [ Back ]

21  Revenue figures reported on BoxOfficeMojo.com are as of August 3, 2014. [ Back ]

22  Since the film is classified as direct-to-video, revenue data is not easily obtained. However, WorldCat.org, the online public catalog which provides bibliographic data created by librarians at OCLC, Inc., identifies 185 holding libraries which own the title. [ Back ]

23  Cf. the author's "Select Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Assisted Suicide Fiction: Themes and Absences in the Works," Lifeissues.net, 14 July 2014, Web. [ Back ]