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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four books on human life

Innocent Blood

Innocent Blood is a good, brief explanation of how Christ-centeredness should lead to pro-life conviction and action rather than helpless shrugs. John Ensor argues rightly that "Abortion is the defining experience of our times ... an experience involving the shedding of innocent blood, a sin of bloodguilt, a sin that can only be addressed by a forthright, compassionate, and unapologetic gospel." He connects our blood-guilt to Satan's blood-war and Jesus' blood-atonement. Some books on abortion let us rest easy in the belief that we can do nothing to stop the plague. Others say we're doomed because we have not stopped it. Innocent Blood reminds us that Christ's crimson gift atones.

Merchants of Despair

Merchants of Despair takes us from Charles Darwin's racism in The Descent of Man to Nazi eugenics to population doomsayers like Paul Ehrlich. Zubrin shows how until the mid-1960s private organizations such as Planned Parenthood pushed population control, but the greatest damage began in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed, "Five dollars invested in population control is worth a hundred dollars invested in economic growth." USAID under both Democratic and Republican administrations funded sterilization programs in dozens of Latin American, African, and Asian countries. For example, it contributed to Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's sterilization of over 300,000 women in five years. U.S. funds distributed through international organizations also supported China's brutal one-child policy.


Abby Johnson was the Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, who in 2009 resigned her position after viewing an ultrasound abortion. She didn't just walk away from her job: She joined the Coalition for Life, the group that had prayed and demonstrated at the fence outside her Planned Parenthood clinic since she'd begun volunteering eight years earlier. Johnson's compelling first-person account of her journey from naïve college girl with a big heart to abortion clinic director to pro-life activist conveys well her thinking at each stage. She shows how the love and friendship of pro-lifers-not slogans-softened her. She also holds out hope: The gospel of grace that healed her might also heal the people inside the fence.

Unnatural Selection

Why is the ratio of men to women so out of whack in parts of Asia? Hvistendahl shows how the 1960s obsession with overpopulation led Western policymakers to fund population control measures in many parts of Asia. Since Asian women prized boys, they often had children until they gave birth to the desired son. But what if you could detect the gender of the baby in the womb? Then you could abort all those undesired female babies. Ultrasound technology enabled doctors to determine the gender of the pre-born. Western money enticed Asian governments to tackle their population problem, often using abortion to get the desired result. Hvistendahl's fascinating book combines on-the-ground reporting with historical and demographic research.


Mara Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection (Public Affairs, 2011) is a sobering history of international population control, a wide-ranging look at the status of girls, and a dystopian tract about the negative consequences, including sex trafficking and bride-selling, of having many more men than women.

Hvistendahl details how the World Bank, Planned Parenthood, the UN, and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations gave millions of dollars to Asian countries to reduce their populations while encouraging or at least turning a blind eye to the coercive measures they used. She also shows how science unbound by biblical restraints has terrible consequences.

Although Hvistendahl shows how abortion coupled with ultrasound led to the killing of many girl babies, she's uncomfortable that pro-lifers might use her research to limit abortion rights. She criticizes Congressman Trent Franks for using "language comparing abortion to killing," even though she pronounces his proposed Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act "not such a bad law."

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these books on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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