Abortion is in focus around the world

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 3, 2023
TWTB collage: Top photo by Jeff Jacobs, Pixabay
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Welcome to This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s big news story.

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The Big Story:

Abortion, an emotive issue, is in focus around the world.

The Backstory:

This Week, Those Books:

  • A novel that delves deeply into one of America’s most hot-button issues.
  • A global anthology on women’s moral, psychological and physical courage.
  • An inside look at China’s 40-year, state-directed birth control programme.

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  • Mercy StreetBy: Jennifer HaighPublisher: Ecco

    Year: 2022

This could be called the great American novel about motherhood. It’s set in Boston, “the most Catholic city in America”, in the words of 45-year-old childless protagonist Claudia Birch. There are ‘pro-lifers’, which is to say anti-abortion protestors outside the women’s clinic where Claudia works as a counsellor. And there is Victor, a white supremacist who is angry that white women are allowing themselves to be “outbred” by their brown- and black-skinned sisters. Then there are the patients – some underage, poor, abused or drug addicts. Their lives, Claudia explains, are like a burning building with a fire on every floor. Which fire do you put out first? A compelling story from the frontlines of America’s culture war.

Choice quote:

“‘Look,’ Phil said, ‘I’m on your side.  You know I have no problem with abortion, assuming there’s a good reason.’

‘There’s always a reason,’ she said.  ‘Define good.’”

  • Choice Words: Writers on Abortion

By Annie Finch

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Year: 2020

This collection of poems, stories and essays came together over 20 years after poet Annie Finch had an abortion and turned to literature to understand her “initial sense of shock and loss”. With gems from Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Iran, Kenya, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, and the UK, it points out that in the West, abortion is considered a basic liberty but in India and elsewhere, women struggle to not have abortions – usually of female babies.

Choice quotes:

“When does life begin? All the time.

With every breath, things start over.”

–      Cin Salach

“We were pregnant with memory for the rest of our lives.”

–      Desiree Cooper

“I could see the (servant) girl lying on the floor, her blood spilled all around, people lamenting only that she had left a big mess behind.”

–      Amy Tan

  • Behind the Silence: Chinese Voices on AbortionBy: Nie Jing-BaoPublisher: Rowman & Littlefield

    Year: 2005

A China-born bioethicist at New Zealand’s Dunedin School of Medicine examines the usual assumption that Chinese people are untroubled by ethical issues around abortion.

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