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"Abortion: The Moral Issues,"
edited by Edward Batchelor Jr.

Review by John Gabree

No contemporary issue divides Americans more profoundly that the problem of abortion and its regulation. Although the debate has raged for more than two decades and a vast ational consensus appears to exist favoring legalization, tempers have not cooled on either side of the argument. People who favor legalized abortion are called "murderers" by their opponents, while the latter are described as reactionary neanderthals insensitive to the sufferings of the already born.

Batchelor, a chaplain and lecturer at Brooklyn College, who performed a similar service recently with his book "Homosexulaity and Ethics," has gathered together essays on abortion by 20 theologians and ethicists (such as Karl Barth, Margaret Mead and Paul Ramsey) in the modest hope of elevating the level of argument. What is emphasized is what we already know from experience, that there are no fast and simple answers.

Among the issues considered by the contributors is whether abortion is a religious matter at all. If is is, how can the religious ethicist clarify the moral questions? Is preserving and protecting innocent human life an absolute value? Are the rights of the mother or the embryo to be foremost? Is an unborn child a human being with full rights? Id so, at what point in its development does it become fully human? What is the proper relationship between religious, judicial and legislative institutions in public-policy decision-making?

Although not all questions can be answered to everyone;s satisfaction, the atmosphere of calm reasoning that pervades the essays is helpful in itself. For example, while it remains difficult to accept the Vatican's rigid stand against abortion, after hearing the arguments of the Jesuits and other Roman Catholic supporters of that position here, it is somewhat easier to understand the reasoning and the history behind it.

Similarly, it is helpful to remember that pro-abortionists are often guilty of parasding under some highly dubious banners, such as the slogan, "A Woman Has A Right To Her Own Body." While having the effect of drawing attention to past and present abuses of women's rights, such a formulation begs important questions, such as whether the fetus is part of the mother's body, whether authority over one's body is absolute, whether the father has rights, and so on.

This collection also provides a fruitful reminder of how extensive the areas of agreement are in this debate. Most people, pro- or anti-, would agree that in most cases abortion is tragic and undesirable, and so all sides should be able to come together in support of policies that overcome the personal and social causes of abortion, although to this will require some abortion opponents to alter their position on the related subject of contraception. In all, this is a welcome source book that will help readers to think more clearly on this deeply divisive issue. (1982)

Buy Abortion: The Moral Issues
edited by Edward Batchelor Jr.



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