In a 1982 New Orleans courtroom the best kept secret in the world is about to unravel, and a young couple’s jet set lives are about to change. Senior district attorney Peter Jacobs is facing the trial of a lifetime, a passionate, spiritual battle against an evil with far reaching consequences. His beloved wife Rebecca, a glamorous and driven partner at a major law firm, suddenly finds her life spun out of control and her new faith tested while facing a once in a lifetime choice.
New from lawyer-turned-novelist Pamela Binnings Ewen, An Accidental Life is fiction based on fact: the testimony of registered nurse Jill Stanek before a U.S. Congressional Committee confirming that it was routine for doctors in Chicago’s Christ Hospital to have nurses take infants born alive during abortions down to a “soiled utility room” and leave them to die.
Stanek’s testimony led Congress to enact the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2001, a federal-only law that still does not bind state run hospitals or private clinics. The fact remains that what happens to abortion survivors is one of the best kept secrets in the world.
An Accidental Life is a gripping novel with scenes inspired by real life events. One of the most gut wrenching is taken from the testimony Jill Stanek gave that day in 2001. I read about that testimony several years later, but I don’t think the impact of it ever goes away. Other plot details reminded me of the Gosnell case in Philadelphia from earlier this year. The truth is, however inconvenient it may be for some, there are babies born alive during late term abortion. At that point which holds the greater value: the woman’s right to choose or the baby’s right to life?
The trial of the abortion doctor is the most important part of this book and fills a considerable number of pages. The author spent 25 years practicing law but, with only minor exceptions, the proceedings are easy to understand. Although this is a Christian novel, BOTH sides of the case are presented in the form of prosecution and defense arguments. There is a lot of discussion regarding Roe v Wade, which was only nine years old at the time An Accidental Life is set. I had no idea which way the verdict would go until the end, which made me want to keep reading.
The parallel story in An Accidental Life is that of Rebecca learning she’s pregnant. She’s a career woman in a man’s world. At the start of the story, she and a female colleague are made the first female partners at the law firm where they work. Traditional attitudes regarding women in the workplace are still around, and Rebecca experiences the chauvinistic attitudes of her male colleagues as her pregnancy progresses. When her doctor tells her to limit her business travel, she wonders if she’ll still have a job after her baby is born. While these attitudes now seem backward and women can no longer be fired for being pregnant, there is no doubt that this was the norm. Given Ewen’s background, I can’t help but wonder if the narrative is based on her experiences in a male-dominated career field.
Thank you to B & H Publishing for my free electronic copy of An Accidental Life, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.
Click to hear Pamela give a reading about An Accidental Life
Publisher: B & H Publishing
Publication Date: 01 September 2013
Page Count: 368