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Defending Life


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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. He responds to the strongest prochoice arguments found in law, science, philosophy, politics, and the media. He explains and critiques Roe v. Wade, and he explains why virtually all the popular prochoice arguments fail. There is simply nothing like this book.


Part I. Moral Reasoning, Law, and Politics: 1. Abortion and moral argument; 2. The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and abortion law; 3. Abortion, liberalism, and the neutral state; Part II. Assessing the Case for Abortion-Choice and against Human Inclusiveness: 4. Science, the unborn, and abortion methods; 5. Popular arguments: pity, tolerance, and ad hominem; 6. The nature of humanness and whether the unborn is a moral subject; 7. Does it really matter whether the unborn is a moral subject? The case from bodily autonomy; Part III. Extending and Concluding the Argument: 8. Cloning, bioethics and reproductive liberty; 9. Conclusion - a case for human inclusiveness.


"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

" 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

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