Monday, June 18, 2007

Beckwith: Defending Life

Frank Beckwith, in the course of an interview largely about his conversion to Roman Catholicism, talks about his upcoming book on abortion. Having read and been significantly helped by his earlier book, Politically Correct Death, I'm looking forward to this one as well: This fall Cambridge University Press will be publishing your book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, which is described as "the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published." Would you like to give it a shameless plug and tell readers what is unique about the book and what you hope to accomplish with it?

Dr. Beckwith: You gotta love publishers! Now to the shameless plug. Some of your readers may know of my 1993 book, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Argument for Abortion Rights (Baker Book House). Defending Life was originally going to be a revised edition of that book. But since so much has been written over the past decade on abortion, and because Politically Correct Death did not cover some issues and was a bit outdated, I decided to just write a whole new book. Defending Life covers not only the popular arguments for abortion, but also some of the most sophisticated cases offered by abortion-choice advocates in the academy. I deal extensively with the arguments of thinkers like David Boonin (author of A Defense of Abortion [Cambridge University Press, 2002]) and Judith Jarvis Thomson on issues of fetal personhood and the mother's obligation to her unborn child. But I also deal with the paucity of the legal case for Roe v. Wade, the cloning and stem-cell research debate, and whether prolife religious citizens have the right to shape laws in a liberal democracy, none of which I addressed in Politically Correct Death. Although Defending Life covers sophisticated arguments offered by professional philosophers and bioethicists, the publisher believes that because it is clearly written and includes sections on popular arguments, it will be marketing the book to an audience broader than academics and scholars. In fact, the publisher asked me to place the book's footnotes as endnotes in order to make the text attractive to non-scholars. I, of course, said yes.

What I hope to accomplish with the book is this: I want to offer my colleagues as well as the general public an intelligent, clearly articulated, and non-polemical defense of the prolife position on abortion that does not rely on theological or religious arguments. I also want to help college students and my friends in the prolife movement so that they are better equipped to deal with the best arguments offered by our fellow citizens who do not share our point of view.