No matter where you stand on the issue of abortion --- though I suspect most readers of this review oppose it --- there's one aspect of the issue you just can't argue with. As Jennifer O'Neill writes, "You cannot argue with someone's pain." You can dismiss it, you can minimize it, you can ignore it, but you cannot effectively use your powers of persuasion to convince other people that they are not in pain. In YOU'RE NOT ALONE, O'Neill, an actress and Cover Girl Cosmetics model, writes primarily to those women who continue to suffer from the emotional pain of abortion --- and she writes as one who has been there.
In previous books and videos and in her ongoing role as national spokesperson for the "Silent No More" abortion awareness campaign, O'Neill tells the story of her own abortion, the struggles that followed, and her ultimate reconciliation with God. Here, she gives space to the stories of other women who have likewise suffered and found hope and healing through God's forgiveness. Throughout, O'Neill uses scripture to underscore the truth that God's grace and mercy are available to everyone --- even those women who feel they've bordered on committing the unpardonable sin by aborting a child.
On that score, O'Neill does a terrific job. If you don't get a taste of God's grace and forgiveness while reading this book, well, I guess you just weren't ready for it. Because it's there for the taking. On every page. O'Neill also addresses two aspects of the post-abortion experience that often go unnoticed: the need to openly grieve for the aborted child and the need to confess the truth about a previous abortion to a spouse and children.
One of the most poignant scenes in the book relates to the need to grieve. In Japan for a film festival, O'Neill wanted to do some sightseeing and decided to visit a large Buddhist temple. In one area on the grounds were thousands upon thousands of pinwheels. Next to some were tiny mementos --- empty photo frames, knitted booties, and the like. What she was looking at was the burial ground for aborted babies, a place where people could openly mourn the loss of their own child or for all of the anonymous children lost to abortion. "Grieving is part of surviving and is an integrally crucial part of the healing process," O'Neill writes. "Grieving is not a step you can skip if you want to heal." All too often, the shame of abortion causes women to skip that step, she writes, but the repercussions will surface eventually.
O'Neill also guides women through the process of determining when, how, and if they should disclose the fact of a long-ago abortion to their current family --- their spouse and children. It's a process designed not to convince the women that they should or shouldn't, but to allow each woman to come to her own decision about how to handle the situation.
Now to the downside. This is a book that is likely to resonate with Christians only. That's not to say that a person who isn't a Christian wouldn't get anything out of it, but that person would have to be heavily steeped in Christian jargon. [Note to software developers: Please, please, create a "Christianese Check" just like spell check or grammar check.] "Stronghold" means little or nothing to someone outside the faith, and "bondage" means something you don't mention in polite society. Using plain English instead of Christianese would have helped this book immensely.
And even though O'Neill writes primarily to women who have aborted their babies, she also intends to reach their loved ones and anyone who needs a better understanding of post-abortion trauma. Well, that to me includes those pro-life activists who remain blissfully unaware of the additional pain and suffering they cause to women who are already burdened by guilt and shame. Please note: I did not say all activists. I mean those who are so blinded by their zeal to protect the unborn that they disregard the suffering of those who failed to protect their own unborn. O'Neill devotes precious little space to that problem, and it's a big one.
She also states that "abortion is not a comfortable subject for most sermons," implying that pastors shy away from addressing the issue. But that sure hasn't been my experience, and I've seen more than one woman slip out of church in tears as a pastor railed against those heinous sinners who abort their babies. A book on healing after abortion needs to include the topic of "healing from the pain inflicted on you by your alleged brothers and sisters in Christ."
Look, any book that gets a woman past the pain of abortion and into the arms of God ["Christianese Check" needed!] is worth reading. I just hope this book finds a wider audience than the Christians who understand the lingo, because there are plenty of women out there who may be put off by the jargon but not by the promise of healing.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 1, 2005