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Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice unknown Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521691352
ISBN-10: 0521691354
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Editorial Reviews


"By a masterful marshalling of the pertinent arguments and a civil engagement with the counter-arguments, Beckwith makes a convincing case for law and social policy based on reason and natural rights rather than the will to power."
Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief, First Things

"Like a superhero fighting on hostile turf with one arm tied behind his back, Francis J. Beckwith confronts every argument ­- popular, legal, and philosophical ­- that comes out against the pro-life position and fends them off one by one with steadfast rationality and exuberant invention. Between punches, drawing on the science of embryology and on philosophical anthropology, he develops a gracious and luminous case for the simple goodness of human life and the basic equality of all members of the human community from the moment of conception. Readers will judge for themselves whether or not he delivers a knock-out, but after working through Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice, no one can honestly hide behind such conceits as that all educated people support abortion, that nothing but blind faith rejects abortion rights, or that we are faced with a tragic choice between intelligence and life."
James R. Stoner, Jr., Louisiana State University

"Using an argument rooted in nondiscrimination and equality of persons, Beckwith deftly combines the analytical tools of philosophy, jurisprudence, and science to construct a brilliant case for governmental protection of the unborn. Critics will have difficulty refuting the logical conclusion that emerges from his basic premises."
Carol Swain, Vanderbilt University

"Francis Beckwith's Defending Life directly confronts, with careful analysis of specific texts, a wide variety of arguments made by prominent scholars who favor abortion rights, including Judith Thomson, David Boonin, Dean Stretton, Eileen McDonagh, Paul Simmons, and Stuart Rosenbaum. Those who read the book may not agree with Beckwith, but they will have no ground to complain that he has not taken the arguments on the other side seriously, since the book is a sustained analysis and critique of the most important arguments in defense of abortion rights. It is often said that the anti-abortion position is fundamentally religious. Defending Life, however, provides a comprehensive and sophisticated philosophical defense of the position - too often given short shrift in academia - that abortion involves the deliberate, unjustifiable killing of a member of the human community. It is an invaluable contribution to debate on this central social and political issue."
Christopher Wolfe, Marquette University

"As the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the ban on partial birth abortion and the controversy over stem cell research make clear, the issues surrounding respect for life will continue at the forefront of American politics in the twenty-first century. Professor Beckwith's new book makes an important contribution to these debates. Defending Life is, and is likely to remain for a long time, the most thorough and detailed statement of the pro-life position. It is well-written and learned; the author's command of the relevant literatures, both legal and philosophic, is impressive."
Jean M. Yarbrough, Bowdoin College

"...in his new book, Defending Life, leading pro-life scholar Francis J. Beckwith offers a precise statement of the philosophical and jurisprudential case the movement has developed....the Supreme Court has not settled the abortion issue; and when the abortion question eventually returns to the electorate, careful thinking will be crucial. That's when Beckwith's Defending Life will be helpful indeed."
Ryan T. Anderson, National Review

"This is important work... Beckwith performs a most effective demolition job on the pro-choice movement's more hackneyed arguments... [This book] is worthwhile reading for pro-life thinkers who wish to track Roe's deadly march through the American intelligentsia. It's more worthwhile still for pro-life thinkers who know that, while Roe may have won many battles since 1973, the war is far from over. Defending Life will equip pro-life activists to make a logically sound defense of human dignity."
Douglas LeBlanc, Christianity Today

"Defending Life is a profound and vigorous defense of the right to life, as well as a comprehensive rebuttal to every conceivable argument in favor of abortion."
Inside The Vatican

"...Beckwith has written a careful and meticulous treatise about why the fetus should have a personhood status equal to that of a born human being from the moment of conception. This is exactly where legislation is heading, and his book may bolster those efforts..."
--Eileen McDonagh, Northeastern University

Book Description

Defending Life is the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published. It is sophisticated, but still accessible to the ordinary citizen. Without high-pitched rhetoric or appeals to religion, the author offers a careful and respectful case for why the prolife view of human life is correct.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; unknown edition (August 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521691354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521691352
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Muehlenberg VINE VOICE on September 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is certainly the newest pro-life work to appear, and arguably among the best. It not only lays out the legal, rational, moral and philosophical case against abortion choice, but it more broadly makes the case for human equality and the sanctity of life.

Beckwith is an American professor of law and philosophy who has written extensively on these issues previously. This volume brings together years of thinking and debating on this contentious issue. It is an invaluable resource for all those wishing to stand up for human life at all stages of development, and to counter the arguments of the pro-choice brigade.

The first third of the book paints with broad brush strokes, examining moral reasoning, legal considerations, and political dimensions of the abortion debate.

The second third of the book looks more closely at the abortion debate per se, looking at the science, the morality and the arguments involved in the debate about abortion.

The final third of the book extends these considerations to recent developments in bioethics, including cloning and stem cell research.

The second and longest section of this book does many things, including carefully dismantling the various arguments put forward by the pro-abortion camp. All the leading pro-abortion thinkers, such as Thompson, Boonin, Stretton, and Dworkin are taken on, with their positions carefully assessed and interacted with.

On the broader issue of human equality, Beckwith argues for the substance view which states that a human being "is intrinsically valuable because of the sort of thing it is and the human being remains that sort of thing as long as it exists".
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Format: Paperback
Beckwith's primary purpose is to provide a thorough defense of the pro-life position and its grounding in the "substance view" of human persons--a view he claims best explains human equality. He writes: "This book is, in a sense, then, not really a book about abortion, but rather, a book about human equality." Frank contends that the larger metaphysical question--who are we?--should be answered by enlarging our definition of the human family to include the unborn. His secondary purpose is to examine the relationship between abortion and law, politics, and public discourse.

The pro-life argument Frank defends can be outlined as follows:

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with moral reasoning, the law, and politics. Part 2 is the core of Frank's case for the pro-life view, which includes both the scientific and philosophic considerations. Part 3 takes on cloning and embryonic stem-cell research.

The thrust of the text is philosophical and jurisprudential rather than religious. In each case, the arguments presented pass the test of public reason. That's not because he thinks theology doesn't count as real knowledge (indeed, he argues elsewhere it does). Rather, he's cutting-off secular critics who unjustly dismiss pro-life arguments with the wand of "faith"--which they define as non-rational and subjective.

Frank sums up the current controversy this way: "At the end of the day, the abortion debate is about who and what we are and whether we can know it."
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Dr. Francis J. Beckwith's Defending Life is simply the best, most comprehensive, most logically sound examination of abortion & the meaning of personhood available in print today. Excellent summaries of the book are available elsewhere, so let me focus on some unique features.

First, Dr. Beckwith argues for a definition & moral value to humanity that provides a defense for innocent humans in a wide variety of circumstances, not just those who are tiny & preborn. The general philosophical arguments used here are helpful for evaluating human value among those in undeveloped, famine plagued regions of the world; among populations of hardened, committed career criminals; among those yet to be conceived several generations after our pollution-promoting public policies; & those who are physically and/or mentally disabled, etc.

Second, Dr. Beckwith treats abortion rights advocates with respect & honesty, not merely fairly representing their views & arguments, but even improving their arguments when he can & yet showing that even the best abortion rights arguments fatally undermine basic human rights based on the nature of humanity. A number of years ago, I role-played an abortion rights advocate in a public debate with Dr. Beckwith. He was concerned that his opponent be formidable & insightful, but he couldn't find an available true advocate he thought would do a credible enough job. I gave it my best shot (& Dr. Beckwith kindly said I was his toughest opponent to date), but Dr. Beckwith's arguments remained compelling & invincible. That generous respect & yet actual superiority is reflected in this book.

Third, Dr. Beckwith's sharp wit makes this book a serendipitous pleasure to read as well.
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