In Pamela Binnings Ewan’s newest book,
An Accidental Life (B&H Books), she approaches an issue most authors would
shy away from—infants who survive abortions. In her book she tells a complex
story of desperation and hope.
WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR THIS NOVEL?
About three years ago I saw an interview with Registered
Nurse, Jill Stanek, on television. She was talking about a testimony she gave
before Congress in 2000 about infants born alive during late term abortions,
and left to die. Medical assistance was withheld. This was happening in the
hospital in which she worked in Oak Lawn, Illinois, as well as in clinics and
hospitals around the country. She also said that it was not uncommon for an
infant to survive a late term abortion. In the hospital’s case, when a
live-birth occurred the baby was left in a ‘soiled utility room’ alone to die.
Sometimes Jill and other nurses would hold the babies until they died, and
sometimes that would take hours.
As you can imagine, I was horrified. I’d never heard of such
a thing, never even thought of the possibility that an infant could survive an
abortion. But as I researched the issue, I found that what Stanek had said was
a fact, and that this is still continuing today. The testimony of Stanek and
other nurses and witnesses back in 2000, and evidence that these were not
isolated issues, resulted in the 2001 Born Alive Infant Protection Act. But the
legislation covered only abortions in federal institutions and facilities. It
gave no protection to the little survivors of abortions in state hospitals and
That interview, and the research I did afterward, drove me
to write An Accidental Life. I wanted
readers to know that this was happening, and just as important, why.
ARE ALL OF THE CHARACTERS FICTIONAL?
They are all fictional, however the story was inspired by nurse
Jill Stanek’s testimony from her own experience. And one of the major
characters, Rebecca Downer (readers may remember her in Dancing on Glass and Chasing
the Wind) is a lawyer struggling to learn to balance the new partnership
responsibilities required in her firm with family concerns. Rebecca’s choices
toward the end of the book were inspired, as I noted in the Acknowledgements to
the book, by a young woman lawyer who has spent her life fighting in the legal
arena for rights of the unborn, and born-alive infants.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE
GET OUT OF THIS?
I’m hoping that An
Accidental Life will open eyes; save little lives. An Accidental Life is a love story and a legal drama centered on a
tense murder trial. The two story lines deal with life-changing choices. My
hope is that through the trial portion of the book, readers will understand
that infants born during late term abortion are often capable of surviving, but
in more cases than you could imagine. Still moving, crying, struggling to
breathe--they’re treated as medical waste and left alone to die. Opponents of
legislation protecting these babies argue that to save the infant’s life will
diminish the woman’s right to choose. Still today in our country a vocal
opposition believes that a born-alive infant remains bound by his or her
mother’s choice. Particularly in the case of young women readers, An Accidental Life is a call to an
awakening, then understanding, and then…change.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT
FICTION HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE PEOPLE IN A VERY REAL WAY?
Fiction illuminates truth by showing, not just telling, in a
very personal way. A good story takes you to another place, allows readers to
share the characters’ experiences and reflections. A good story allows you to
feel the emotions, experience all the senses and identify personally with the
issues. With a subject as sensitive as this one, I felt that telling the story through
individual characters making choices, responding to problems, dealing with
consequences, was a real way to bring the subject home to our hearts. When Rebecca
Downer Jacobs waits to learn if she’s been chosen for partnership in the law
firm, the reader feels the desperation of her search for meaning in life. When Glory
Lynn Chasson hears her baby cry during an abortion, her world turns upside
down. For the first time she realizes that the fetus she’s just borne is a real
child. When Peter struggles to make the judge see the truth, the reader feels
his passion. Questions are raised and debated through the thoughts and actions of the characters themselves—their
choices, actions, how they react to consequences. Fiction is very personal and
moving to readers; very powerful.