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A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy) Paperback – November 4, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0521520355 ISBN-10: 0521520355

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A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy) + The Ethics of Abortion: Women's Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice (Routledge Annals of Bioethics) + Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, Second Edition
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521520355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521520355
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I have never read a better examination of all the arguments that have been raised against abortion. Nor have I read a better series of counter arguments against each of these arguments." Rosemarie Tong, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"This book is a truly wonderful piece of applied analytic moral philosophy. It considers an extremely important issue and reasons carefully, clearly, cleverly, and convincingly. The set of arguments surveyed is so complete that there is something for virtually anyone with any stake in the issue--philosophers, religious persons, feminists.... By refuting all arguments for the claim that abortion is not permissible, on grounds that the abortion critics themselves can accept.... The book is so overwhelmingly genuine and convincingly argued."

Book Description

David Boonin has written the most thorough and detailed case for the moral permissibility of abortion yet published. Critically examining a wide range of arguments that attempt to prove that every human fetus has a right to life, he shows that each of these arguments fails on its own terms. He then explains how even if the fetus does have a right to life, abortion can still be shown to be morally permissible on the critic of abortion's own terms.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Katsenis on June 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
The philosophical issue of abortion has been plagued with the difficulty of situating itself in a way whereby it can be successfully discussed. Often, proponents from a rights-based platform do battle against opponents from a moral-wrong platform and no claims are held in common. Thus, discussions in the literature tend to go past one another making the abortion issue nearly impossible to navigate. Boonin's book begins with a chapter where this problem is addressed and managed, at least to a degree whereby the dozens of arguments concerning abortion can be classified or organized in a logical sequence. He then proceeds to dismiss all arguments against abortion using claims the opponent of abortion accepts.
Boonin uses the Rawlsian approach of reflective equilibrium in his analysis of the abortion issue. Chapters 2-4 concern "rights-based" arguments and the final chapter addresses "non-rights" based arguments. This text is written in true analytic form where non-obvious distinctions are noted and used to clarify weaknesses in all arguments which claim abortion is wrong or impermissible. What Boonin does well in the process is to provide a thorough literature review of all claims made about abortion over the last thirty years.
An overall highlight of this text includes Boonin's ability to discuss weaknesses in arguments by analogy. For example, the now classic "violinist analogy" set forth by J. Thomson, and tacit consent arguments. If you are interested in the topics of arguments by analaogy in general, you will get a kick about of this part of the text! This is a very readable text for one with an intermediate to advanced background in philosophical argument and analysis.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By infoglutton on April 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I used this book as a way to better structure arguments for debate on abortion. It took the arguments I had, discounted them, and gave me better ones.

A background in informal logic and philosophy will certainly be helpful to the reader here. While this book is really the most comprehensive of its kind, it is not a simple read. I had to take notes just to understand some of the complexities within arguments. Fortunately, I was also able to read this with a friend, which made dense parts of the book easier.

The author is careful in framing the debate and stresses arguing on an opponent's own terms. The author explains the contrast between morally criticizable and morally permissible. Moral relevance is also an essential idea. Further, the author establishes a moraly relevant criterion by brain development that may act as a cutoff point late in pregnancy so that it is still morally impermissible to kill an infant. I recommend previewing the table of contents to get a flavor of argument structure and the arguments covered. I have not encountered a topic that was not covered in the book except for maybe ageism. However, after reading this book my reasoning was developed enough to where I practically laid out a proof as to what ageism was and was not and why it was not a valid objection.

I think this book may have been a little stronger had it looked at more than fetal rights in isolation, but rather also mention that what the question being asked is does the fetus's right to life outweigh the mother's right to her body and vice-versa. Fetal rights arguments are thoroughly explained as well as non-rights based arguments. This book has also been helpful in detailing how the logic works in analogies and why the weirdness objection is not valid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ben C. on May 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author takes painfully detailed philosophical approach to the question: when does the fetus gain a right to life?

The book is accessible and thorough. A handy reference guide.

It's most impressive for its goal of defending abortion using arguments that pro-life folks already accept.
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