HELP HER TO BE BRAVE: DISCOVER YOUR PLACE IN THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT
(Chicago: Moody Publishers, paperback, 208 pp., 2021, $14.99. Also available as e-book; on-line publisher discounts.)
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ABORTION, EUTHANASIA AND END-OF-LIFE MEDICAL DECISIONS
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, paperback, 89 pp., 2020, $7.99. Also available as e-book.)
Reviewed by John Grondelski
Prolifers are often accused of being indifferent to the plight of women with unplanned pregnancies and the life-altering challenges they face. Amy Ford refutes that calumny; her book is chock-full of practical suggestions for helping these women both before and after they deliver their children. Her activism comes from experience. Single and pregnant at 19, she got all the way to the abortionist’s table before she chose to keep her baby. That experience inspired her to found Embrace Grace, a church-centered program that encourages women to make the life-saving decision she did.
Many women who consider abortion are young and single; they fear becoming mothers because they think they are alone and unloved. “The church,” Ford writes, “can play a powerful role” in convincing them otherwise and therefore “in saving lives.”
It can . . . be one of the first places a girl runs to when she finds out she has an unplanned pregnancy. It should never be the place she avoids because of shame and guilt. The church can help her be brave and choose life. The church can reach out and invite these women and men into a spiritual family. The church can help heal past hurts and wounds because free people free people. The church can help practically by giving single or struggling moms support so they don’t just survive, they thrive. Most Christians say they want to live this way. But I believe the same Christians who have taken a stance for the sanctity of life don’t realize that if abortion became illegal today, the church wouldn’t be ready.
Ford wants a church that’s ready—to be a community of help, not one of harsh judgment. In Help Her to Be Brave, she encourages us to “See,” “Comfort,” “Welcome,” “Protect,” “Love,” “Support,” “Free,” “Empower,” “Know,” and “Embrace” women who need our help. These headings are more than slogans. Each chapter begins with “What the Bible Has to Say.” For example, on how to “Welcome” women, the answer is to do so with the open arms and happy festivity of the prodigal son’s father, not the illtempered displeasure of his brother. Then “Discovering Your Place” suggests concrete ways for prolifers to implement each goal: We can “Protect” women, for instance, by voicing our availability to help them in social media posts. “What [X] Can Look Like” draws illustrations from Ford’s own experience: “Freeing” women can begin with relating your own story of vulnerability and how it was overcome.
The most valuable part of each chapter is (usually) three to five pages of “Ideas for How to [e.g., See, Comfort, Welcome, etc.].” These range from considering professional commitment (Ever thought of becoming a pro-life lawyer, doctor, or politician? Or leading an Embrace Grace support group?) to using specific skills (Are you an ultrasound tech who could help out once a month in your local pregnancy support center?) to everyday activities most of us could handle (Can you help organize a baby shower for unwed mothers in your church? Drive an unwed mom to a doctor’s appointment? Help babysit her child while she studies for her GED? Maybe write a letter to an unwed mother to include in a personal care package that Embrace Grace delivers?). Every chapter also includes ample lists of pro-life organizations and resources.
Ford’s vision is religion-based but she’s emphatic that the church be dedicated to helping all women. She tells about being approached by an atheist pro-life leader from Berkeley who invited her to speak there. Initially caught off-guard, she asked whether she was really the right fit. The leader’s answer surprised her: “Yeah, I know what your pro-love message is about. I don’t believe in your God. But I believe in the power of your people.” Ford believes in the power of the church. “The pro-life side has the manpower,” she writes, “because we have the church. We have got to activate the church to get involved and things will start to change.”
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Wayne Grudem has a different focus. In What the Bible Says about Abortion, Euthanasia and End-of-Life Medical Decisions, the Cambridge-educated evangelical theology professor provides readers with Christian pro-life arguments that are easy to comprehend—and communicate to others. Grudem is writing for the person in the pew who might not be pro-life or perhaps is pro-life but unable to articulate why. He begins with biblical grounds for opposing abortion and euthanasia. His choice of scriptural texts is limited but well-targeted: I had never thought of II Samuel 1:1-16 (the death of Saul) as an argument against euthanasia, but David clearly punishes the Amalekite for killing Saul even though it was at Saul’s request.
Grudem’s approach to Scripture is not literal; he digs into the text to address arguments liberal Protestant theologians sometimes employ in their attempts to promote abortion. For example, he explains why the gradation of punishments in Exodus 21 applying to when a pregnant woman is struck doesn’t imply that the Bible undervalued unborn life. Nor does Grudem restrict his arguments to Scripture. He also considers scientific evidence about the unborn as well as experience (e.g., the basis for such instinctual reactions as natural protectiveness when a woman finds out she is a mother or human resistance to murder) to present a well-rounded case that is both religiously grounded and deployable across denominational boundaries.
For people looking for a quick, concise explanation of the pro-life cause from a Protestant perspective—one which counters the work of false shepherds like Kira Schlesinger (Pro-Choice and Christian) and Rebecca Todd Peters (Trust Women)—this short and insightful book is a gem.
John Grondelski was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed are exclusively his.