OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion by Beverly W. Harrison

OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion

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A vigorous, intellectually penetrating, precisely argued pro-abortion tract--marred by clumsy prose, unrelenting partisan rhetoric, and one astonishing logical lapse. Harrison writes as a radical feminist and a liberal Christian. She is, in fact, professor of Christian Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, but her long and acute discussion of the Church's attitudes toward abortion serves mainly to score points against Right-to-Life theologians (e.g., traditional Christian views on abortion reveal a fierce bias against women but until modern times neither much concern about fetal rights nor much clarity about fetal ""personhood""). Harrison makes her case on largely humanistic-philosophic grounds, stressing a woman's right to free procreative choice both as an inalienable feature of her human autonomy and as an essential element in a just and nurturing society. Given the powerful pressure from males who would own or control a woman's fertility, and given the parasitical nature of the fetus, access to legal abortion is an indispensable part of any program for the wholesale liberation of humanity. Harrison has a manifest grasp of the serious literature on both sides of the question, the sophistication of a professional ethicist, and a credible, coherent position. Unfortunately, she writes with true academic gracelessness (constantly using ""revision"" as a verb, for example). She gets so carried away by her passionate sense of conviction that she slips again and again into righteous hyperbole (""matters relating to women's health and well-being are never urgent in this society""--her italics). And worst of all, after establishing that the decision to bear or not to bear a child is a profoundly moral process, she says nothing about bad reasons for having an abortion (selfishness? pusillanimity? revenge?). The woman who chooses to abort can, it seems, do no wrong--except insofar as she may have been robbed of her self-respect by the patriarchy. A strong book with some glaring defects.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1983
Publisher: Beacon