About the Children’s Picture Book on Abortion & an Apology to the Author

by Sally Matheny

There's a children’s picture book, Sister Apple, Sister Pig, causing a great disturbance among conservative Christians. 

The theme of the book is abortion. Thankfully, this book is only available online and isn’t readily available in your child’s library.

I read the free e-book. Then I read reviews and interviews. I can see why the response was so intense.

What makes people angry about the whole thing is:

The author, Mary Walling Blackburn, presents the topic of abortion in the form of a children’s picture book. 

While she says it is meant for adults, not children, it is still formatted as a children’s book and the main character is three years old. It’s dedicated to “Little Friends.” By all publishing standards, it looks like a children’s book. Abortion is not an appropriate topic for a young child.

Interviews found online with the Ms. Blackburn reveal many unsettling and bizarre opinions. She likes to express them with a scholarly vocabulary. But Christians find her words profane and offensive.

Ms. Blackburn is an assistant art professor at a Methodist university.
Perhaps that’s where the worst sting lies. She works for an educational organization that supposedly claims to be a denomination of the Christian faith.

I don’t know what Ms. Blackburn’s relationship with Christ is.

All I know is if you disagree with the Bible, then you disagree with God. If you promote things that conflict with his Holy Word, then you’re encouraging people to turn away from God and face an eternity separated from his love and saving grace. And where Jesus is concerned, you’re either for Him, or against Him. It’s that simple.

The intention of this post is not to blast insults at Ms. Blackburn as some folks have done.

Neither do I intend to praise her. To avoid any confusion, I want to be clear—I do not agree with her stance on life. Neither do I support her work.

However, what I’d like to do is offer a sincere apology to Ms. Blackburn. Please allow me to explain.

Things I Noticed

As I read Sister Apple, Sister Pig, there were some things I noticed which were not mentioned in the critiques I read online.

While it is evident Ms. Blackburn is well educated, she still struggles in finding the right word for the aborted baby mentioned in the book.

Her three-year-old main character, Lee, asks if his sister is an apple or a pig before finally settling with his mother’s description of her as a ghost.

In the story, at least Ms. Blackburn acknowledges the unborn baby as a human being and not a clump of cells. In fact, it says Lee thinks his sister must have looked a lot like him. 

Whether she admits it or not, just as Lee struggles with the abortion of a sibling, apparently so does this author. On her dedication page, Ms. Blackburn includes her own “ghost sister.”

I wonder if many took time to find out that Ms. Blackburn’s own parent unloaded the same kind of information on her when she was only four-years-old. Except it wasn't in the form of a storybook. It really happened.

Choosing an abortion is denying a miracle.
-Sally Matheny

Think about that for a moment.

As a young child, how would you have felt if your mama told you she took the life of your older sister instead of allowing her to live?

In Ms. Blackburn’s book, the reasons given for the abortion are a lack of time and money.

What do you think would cross a preschooler’s mind the next time his mama mentions she’s running low on money or hasn’t enough time in the day?

Perhaps that she/he is not wanted either.

Many people lamented the book teaches abortion as a good thing. I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps it was Ms. Blackburn’s intention to promote abortion, or justify it somehow, but I think that could backfire.

Despite the sunlit photos--sadness and confusion saturate this story. So much so, I think someone would pause and consider not having an abortion. 

The child struggles to make sense of what terrible thing has taken place.

Like so many people, he tries to rationalize it.

 “I’m not sad that my sister is a ghost! If you kept my sister, you would be tired, and sad, and mad!” 
Papa wonders why, and Lee explains:
Because we would be wild and loud and sometimes we would fight. Mama might be scared that she could not buy enough food for us. Mama might not have enough time to read to me, to paint with me, to play with me, to talk with me….
A three-year-old would never think of these reasons on his own. Unfortunately, he can only try to make sense of what he's been told.

He tries to ignore the pain and distract himself with other things

“I want to know where the water is. I want to know how deep
the water is.”
How deep could the water be? How cool? 

Lee is briefly distracted with the water, a golf ball, a book, even a picture of toucans on the wall, but his thoughts always return to his missing sister.

I didn’t see these sentences from the book mentioned in any of the reviews:

Lee might not be listening. Or perhaps Lee is speechless.
Lee does not understand—there is no answer.

So, my heart breaks for Ms.Blackburn. We Christians were quick to point out so many things. But shouldn’t we have also directed her to the peace that only Jesus can give?

I’m afraid when Ms. Blackburn said she was “playing chicken with the anti-choice people,” the response could have been better.

My Apology to the Author

Ms. Blackburn, 

We are all flawed and full of sin.
Remember when you mentioned that “rosy apple” in your story? Yet, if you look at the apple in your photo, it is diseased. 

We are all like that. No matter how we perceive ourselves, we are flawed and full of sin.

Even professing Christians fall short every day. There are some who don’t read their Bibles and some who do. So obey God's Word wholeheartedly and some do not. We’re at all different levels of spiritual maturity. Sometimes we don’t respond in the best of ways. I apologize for that.

While we passionately stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, some have forgotten to share that truth with you. The whole truth includes God's deep love for you.

We believe all children are gifts from God. He loves every one of them. Choosing an abortion is denying a miracle. For whatever reason someone cannot keep a baby, God provides a multitude of families who are waiting to adopt and love them as their own. 

Some of us may have forgotten that you were once a child, too. I am so sorry you had to carry such a heavy burden at an extremely young age. No child should have to try to figure out why a parent ended a baby's life.

You are right—those aborted babies are not apples or pigs. Your story conveys confusion, and a struggle for peace about what happens to those babies.

There are many things I don't understand, but I do know the answer to that one.

Those babies, including your precious sister, are not ghosts. They are alive and well in heaven. A loving, heavenly Father has restored their dismembered and punctured bodies. They are in perfect health, 

And they are happy. Not because of a worldly decision, but because of the joy in heaven.

It saddens me you've lived most of your life with this bitter wound in your heart. Only Jesus can heal that kind of hurt. Only through trusting him fully can you be restored and experience a full and lasting joy.

I will be praying for you often. Not only that, I’m asking other Christians to join me by lifting you, Mary Walling Blackburn, up to the Lord in prayer.

I’m also praying for my Christian brothers and sisters, that together we will have the courage to speak the truth, but to speak it with love and compassion. 

May you find truth and peace in Christ,

Sally Matheny


  1. Thank you for sharing this part of the story and for the reminder to pray for Ms. Blackburn.

    1. Thanks for praying, Bonnie. Let's pray with expectation and trust God's power.

  2. Oh, Sally, what a blessing you are and an example of how a Godly woman meets the ugliness of the world with His beautiful kind of love.

    1. You are kind, Cathy. There are many days I feel quite unworthy of your compliment. I am thankful for God's forgiveness and His new mercies every morning. If you see anything good in me, that's Jesus. Anything less than that, well . . . that's me. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Keep praying, Gail. With God, anything is possible.

  4. Thank you for a well-thought-out response to the author of that book. We need more Christians who respond after much thought rather than with the knee-jerk reactions we often see.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Brenda. It's so easy to jump on a wagon, especially when it appears to be full of like-minded people. I, too, have to remind myself to stop, be still before the Lord, and look a little deeper before taking action.

  5. That was awesome Sally. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mary Jane. Hope you're having a joyful day!


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