Opinion

Reckless: How one young adult author seeks to show teenagers that abortion is “quite normal”

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Another young adult (YA) novel is making a splash in publishing–for normalizing the killing of a baby through a teenager’s abortion. Author Katie Pearson’s first novel, ’89 Walls, appears to be pay-to-publish work with Wise Ink Creative Publishing. It addresses what Cosmopolitan.com calls a “gap” in the YA publishing industry, saying:

“Today’s teens are sexually active, with 46 percent of high-schoolers and nearly two-thirds of all high school seniors reporting they have had sexual intercourse, so the lack of fictional material on this topic is hard to overlook.”

While the number of high schoolers who have had sex is not exactly an indicator of abortion being normal, as Cosmopolitan seems to reason, Pierson thinks the statistics are good enough to merit making it seem like no big deal in her book.

In a Q&A with the magazine, she says:

“I’m frustrated with how the current political climate has successfully moved abortion onto the sidelines. Conservatives make it seem like it’s the marginal, weird thing that bad women do. The reality is that half of women make this choice. It’s totally mainstream women’s health care.”

Let’s do some fact-checking here. According to the latest report on abortion from the Centers for Disease Control, currently approximately 18 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion; however, in the age groups that would read a YA novel, generally, that number is smaller: “<15 and 15–19 years accounted for 0.4% and 13.5% of all abortions.” It was higher during 1989, when the novel is set, but, first, it was not 50 percent, and second, her book is targeted toward a current audience who is being told something is normal that is not. Further, she says outright incorrect that “half of women make this choice.”

Her detractors have the biggest problem with this normalization, she says:

“[They] remark on the fact that the main character halfway through the book has an abortion and then after that, just moves on with her life, and that I treat it almost casually. That’s a very deliberate way of positioning it for me. She heaves a sigh of relief and she moves on. She becomes stronger and happier after making this hard but self-affirming decision. I just wanted to be one of the voices out there that shows that this is actually quite normal.”

In fact, Pierson took great care in writing about the abortion clinic, which included detailing some myths the pro-abortion lobby tries to perpetuate about the “safety” of abortion.

“I tried… to normalize it to make it what it is: a very safe, standard procedure that is safer than carrying a baby to term, especially when you are a teenager.”

If this is such an important topic for teenagers, why has it not been the forefront in YA books? Pierson blames the “religious right” for being too successful:

“I think it’s because the religious right has been so incredibly effective in the last 30 years. Starting with the made-up phrase ‘partial birth abortion,’ they have very much demonized women for exercising their right to choose. This is one of the reasons I wrote this book.”

She adds some more commentary:

“Abortion being depicted in YA novels is very rare, and when it is depicted, it is almost always as a trauma. It is always a horrible, heart-wrenching decision. While no one thinks, Gee, when I grow up, I want to get an abortion! I wanted this book to normalize abortion as a reasonable choice. Abortion has existed in every culture in every era since the beginning of time. This is something women do to control their reproduction.”

Of course child molestation, murder, hatred, assault, and many other things have “existed in every culture in every era since the beginning of time,” as Pierson argues. And some of that might even be normalized by some groups, but normalization never equals morality or goodness. For some reason, killing one’s offspring has a reputation among a group of people as being perfectly acceptable, and that group attempts to dictate that to everyone else. Contrary to what Pierson may believe, most women who have had abortions will not say it wasn’t a big deal that they shrugged off. Even those who support abortion often say it’s a difficult choice and caused them pain.

How irresponsible of Pierson to lay such a heavy weight on young people, who are misled into believing that an abortion might be okay after all, and society was lying to them about it being a serious medical procedure with emotional implications. What a burden this book will then place on them. Pierson says, “[The main character] heaves a sigh of relief and she moves on. She becomes stronger and happier after making this hard but self-affirming decision.” What about the 15-year old girl who reads this book and thinks that’s how she’s supposed to feel but she doesn’t?

YA literature is a powerful force in teenagers. It’s just fiction, we say, when controversial books come out, but Pierson says it’s not. She says of course she has an “agenda” and that it’s “pro-dialogue, pro-choice, and pro-young people.”

Except it’s not. It’s plain old pro-abortion propaganda which will deceive and manipulate young people. Using the deliberate death of a preborn child as a basis for selling books is an irresponsible use of writing for minors. Had it been vetted by a major publisher that may have become more clear.

Now that Cosmopolitan has it on its pro-abortion radar, this work, which may have not received significant attention may end up in the hands of unsuspecting girls who don’t yet understand the grief abortion can cause, no matter how normalized someone tried to make it to sell a book. What a sad moment of reality Pierson will face when she understands the trauma girls experience when they expected real life to be like fiction–and it’s too late to change their minds.

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