Parenthood, disability, ethics, and the crooked way of grace

No Easy Choice

In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar tells her gut-wrenching story of living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a disabling genetic bone disorder that was passed down to her first child—and deciding whether to conceive a second child who would not have OI using assisted reproduction. Her story brings to light the ethical dilemmas surrounding advanced reproductive technologies. What do procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) say about how we define human worth? If we avoid such procedures, are we permitting the suffering of our children? How do we identify a “good life” in a consumer society that values appearance, success, health, and perfection?

Dollar considers multiple sides of the debate, refusing to accept the matter as simply black and white. Her book will help parents who want to understand and make good decisions about assisted reproduction, as well as those who support and counsel them, including pastors and medical professionals.




“Ellen Painter Dollar is a consummate storyteller with a consuming story to tell. She is also a gifted journalist. In No Easy Choice, she has combined those skills to produce a gripping account of her family’s engagement with one of the pressing questions of our time: What and where is the Christian interface between humanity and the bio-engineering we can—and now do—exercise on ourselves, our children-in-the-making, our species? Chock full of informed and candid insights, this one is a page turner.”
—Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why 

“There is so much to recommend in this book—gripping narrative about living with disability, up-to-date information on reproductive technologies, exemplary consideration of the spectrum of ethical issues amidst the complexities and ambiguities of real life, refreshing theological depth matching that of professional theologians but much more accessible, and pastoral sensitivity that will be relevant for ministers and laypeople alike, for starters—that it is definitely an easy choice to recommend No Easy Choice to Christians, all people of faith, and anyone else wrestling with parenting and living with disability in our technological age!”
—Amos Yong, Professor at Regent University and author of The Bible, Disability, and the Church

“Prepare yourself for a compelling, moving, and difficult journey. Ellen Painter Dollar has reflected deeply on the ethics of reproduction for someone with a disabling genetic disorder. Part biography, part ethics, and part science—the book takes you through the hardest and deepest questions surrounding genetics and disability. It will make you weep and smile, think and react, and deepen your relationship with God. Elegantly written, this is a book of sheer genius born out of a story of pain, complexity, and faithfulness. This is a book worth reading and re-reading.”
Ian S. Markham, Dean, President, and Professor of Theology and Ethics, Virginia Theological Seminary

“I am not at all sure I agree with everything in this book on the challenges of conceiving and parenting well in our age of technology. But I don’t need to—because I am quite sure that reading it has made me better informed and more compassionate, and perhaps, please God, wiser. I am grateful for Ellen Painter Dollar’s skill and honesty as a writer, and moved by her story that is so clearly marked by truth and grace. I urge everyone who cares about Christian faithfulness in our time to read, ponder, and share this book.”
—Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

“[No Easy Choice] is much more than memoir and more like an extended ‘case study,’but not one written by a health care professional or clergy in training. Rather, it turns the tables, and is written by the ‘case’ herself, a parent of faith carrying a very risky gene who is trying to deal with the worlds of science, theology, and culture. I learned a lot and felt honored to be invited into the intimacy and capacity to deal with that wider intersection that happens at the beginning of life itself.”
—William C. Gaventa, Associate Professor, The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities , UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and author of Spirituality and Intellectual Disability

“This is a most thoroughgoing evaluation of questions that will absorb prospective parents, doctors, pastors, and those who counsel couples about in vitro fertilization and genetic testing. Anyone reading it will come away better informed on such vital choices challenging our culture.”
—Virginia Stem Owens, author of Caring for Mother: A Daughter’s Long Goodbye

“In No Easy Choice, Ellen Painter Dollar sets out to provide a guide for Christians considering reproductive technology. She succeeds, and then some. Weaving together an honest and touching personal narrative with ethical and theological insight, Dollar writes about a complex topic in simple terms. No Easy Choice should provoke thought, prayer, and discussion from any Christian who wants to engage the most pressing ethical concerns of the 21st century.”
—Amy Julia Becker, author of A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

No Easy Choice is a painfully wise book about the pain of having children whose life will be filled with pain. It is also a book of hope because its author never tries to say more than can be said about why some children are so born. This is a must read, not only for those considering prenatal genetic diagnosis and intervention, but for all concerned with the ethics of PGD. It’s a terrific book.”
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, and author of God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering

“This book is a welcome antidote to dry academic reflection on the ethics of PGD. The author walks us through her difficult decisions about using reproductive technologies in the face of having her children inherit a painful medical condition, cutting through the certitudes of those who do not have to face these choices themselves. Those pondering the use of reproductive technologies and those concerned with the ethics of these technologies can both benefit from reading this book.”
—John H. Evans, Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego, and author of Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion and Public Debate

“The book is both a challenge and a blessing for those who see the beauty that human disability brings to the world and the deep and troubling truths that it reveals about our societies. Moving, touching, personal, and filled with deep Christian spirituality, Dollar’s book will move hearts and make a difference.”
—John Swinton, Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies and Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care, University of Aberdeen


Reviews, Articles and Interviews About No Easy Choice

“Part memoir, part theological treatise, this book offers a refreshingly candid and nuanced grappling with assisted reproduction…This well-written, insightful account should serve as a resource to anyone who ponders the intersection of medicine, ethics, and parenthood.” — Publishers Weekly

“…a beautifully written, comprehensive, and thoughtful contribution to a discussion that is all too frequently muddled with generalizations, oversimplifications, and fallacious arguments.” — Rachel Stone on her blog, Eat with Joy. Click here for full review.

Author Q&A with Religion News Service blogger (and No Easy Choice editor) Jana Riess.

“I especially appreciate Ellen’s tone throughout the book. She isn’t preachy yet she is far from all-embracing. She manages to maintain certain convictions while allowing others to be uprooted and overturned. And she does so not in a medical ethics vacuum, but while living with the complications of excruciating physical pain, and knowing that this pain could very well be passed on to her children. It is a brave book.” — Melissa Florer-Bixler on her blog, Sign on the Window. Click here for the first post in her series on No Easy Choice.

“I was grateful to have Dollar guide me through the maze of questions raised by reproductive technology like PGD…No Easy Choice is a valuable read for those who are trying to make sense of the brave new world of repro tech.” — Michelle van Loon on her blog. Click here for the full review.

“I read [No Easy Choice] in a matter of days, and I was sorry when the book ended, so caught up was I in Ellen Painter Dollar’s morally complex struggle to determine whether her Christian values were compatible with using advanced reproductive technology to prevent a disabling disease in her children.” — Novelist Susan Schoenberger, in a review for West Hartford Patch.

No Easy Choice lives up to its title. Dollar offers an in-depth look at how Christians can make ethical decisions about assisted reproduction. As she points out, this is a subject that most faith leaders are ill equipped to help their congregants examine. The book includes insightful personal narrative about Dollar’s own struggles with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) and her family’s decision about assisted reproduction as well as a thoughtful and scholarly treatment of Christian ethics as it relates to assisted reproductive technology; helpful to clergy and lay people.” — From the April 2012 e-mail newsletter of the nonprofit Religious Institute

“If you like things cut and dried, [No Easy Choice] will drive you nuts. Dollar sees the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the wise and the foolish in just about every argument. She tells stories that show how solidly she identifies with everyone who’s struggling with reproductive issues. But after you’ve sat down with her and examined dozens of arguments pro and con, and after you’ve joined her in wrestling with scores of intellectual and emotional questions regarding her own highly charged decisions, you’ll have a much better idea of the possible implications of any choice you, or anyone else, might make. — LaVonne Neff on the Neff Review

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