A young lady, Dynah, is raped and gets pregnant as a result. Her fiance, who was a pastor in training, her parents, and roommate in college, all Christians, thought the only way out of that ‘dreadful’ situation was for Dynah to abort the ‘unwanted child’ and move on with her life. The Dean of the Christian College, where Dynah was a student and where the incident happened, also thought abortion was the way to go or the young lady had to leave the institution. This book slowly weaves the calamities Dynah had to face as a result of taking the unpopular decision.
‘The Atonement Child’ compared to the two other books I’ve read from this author (The Scarlet Thread and The Shofar Blew) was a bit slow and sad and I felt the writer tried a little too hard to push the theme of the book into the reader’s face. In one family alone, grandmother had had a therapeutic abortion, the mother had had an abortion and the child who had been raped was also being pushed to carry out an abortion. Dynah’s mother’s former schoolmate was also an abortionist and Dynah’s friend in college (Joe) had a girlfriend who had died from committing an abortion. How coincidental can that be?
Perhaps since the story is set in a country where abortion is legal, some of these issues are real and likely to come up in an everyday conversation. That notwithstanding, the theme of this book is very relevant, especially, now that a bill has been passed in New York permitting mothers to abort babies even at the point of birth. One thing this book did so well was to provide the reader with a clear picture of the other side of committing an abortion. The guilt and regret of taking out a life (fetus) may be carried throughout one’s lifetime and that is likely to affect their families and generations. Mostly, abortion is seen as the easiest and direct way of solving the problem of an unwanted pregnancy while the spotlight dims on the emotional and psychological damages this action may have on the women who undergo it.
In Ghana, compared to the US where the story was set, abortion is a criminal offense regulated by Act 29, section 58 of the Criminal code of 1960, amended by PNDCL 102 of 1985. However, section 2 of the law makes exceptions for victims of rape or incest and abortion can be conducted to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, or when there is a malformation of the fetus. According to the Ghana Medical Association, abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality (15-30%) because many women turn to unqualified providers and receive unsafe procedures (Rominski & Lori, 2015; Chauvkin, Baffoe & Awoonor-William, 2018).
The argument of whether a fetus is a baby yet and the legality/ illegality or the process of carrying out the abortion (safe/unsafe) will always remain and looking at the World’s politics, there will always be a divide but the most important person to take the decision is you, the individual/woman. What exactly do you want and what do you stand by? What would God have you do in that situation? It may seem difficult and challenging at a glance and the straightforward option will be an abortion, but, have you explored other alternatives? You may want to consider putting the child up for adoption and that is possible even in Ghana.
One beautiful trait about the character, Dynah, was how she remained calm amidst all the pressure and kept insisting she wanted to know God’s mind before taking any decision concerning the child in her womb. How many of us, in the midst of the storm, will insist on hearing from God first?
This 384-page book is a must-read and ideal for a book club/discussion.
Favourite Lines from Atonement Child:
Those on the side of abortion were the loudest, the most logical, the most appealing to her bruised and battered spirit. And yet there was another voice, quiet, calm, almost imperceptible, that said NO, THERE’S ANOTHER WAY.
“Well, you tell me how we can do that, Dean. Tell me how on God’s green earth we can dare offer salvation to a dying world when we’re so busy shooting our own wounded.”– The Atonement Child,
Chavkin, W., Baffoe, P., & Awoonor‐Williams, K. (2018). Implementing safe abortion in Ghana: “We must tell our story and tell it well”. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 143, 25-30.
Rominski, S. D., & Lori, J. R. (2014). Abortion care in Ghana: A critical review of the literature. African journal of reproductive health, 18(3), 17-35.