ABORTION: THE CLASH OF ABSOLUTES by Laurence H. Tribe

ABORTION: THE CLASH OF ABSOLUTES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tribe (Law/Harvard Law School; God Save This Honorable Court, 1985, and the law book classic, American Constitutional Law) has penned what likely will become the definitive treatise on the legal implications of the right to abortion. In exceptionally lucid prose, Tribe strives to reconcile the seemingly antipodal viewpoints in the abortion debate. Whereas one faction in that debate asserts that a woman possesses absolute freedom to abort a fetus, the other faction contends that every fetus has an absolute claim to life. In the course of trying to harmonize this ""clash of absolutes,"" the author explicates the history of abortion from ancient times to the present, as well as the social and philosophical beliefs that underpin abortion practices in societies as diverse as those of Kafiristan and Holland. However, the analytical heart here is a scholarly--but accessible--argument that the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade had a defensible basis in the Constitution's implicit guarantee of privacy. Against that guarantee, Tribe weighs the belief of some abortion foes that life begins at conception and that abortion thus amounts to murder. Ultimately, the author concludes that, even if tree, this premise could never justify the enthrallment of women through compelled childbirth. Still, he postulates that technological advances in the development of an artificial womb (that is, a womb capable of gestating a viable fetus outside the pregnant woman's body) soon could moot the entire abortion controversy. According to Tribe, the availability of such wombs would ensure both the right to abort an unwanted fetus and the fetus' right to live. Advocates of abortion rights, of course, may well dispute this claim. As futuristic (or sinister) as Tribe's ostensible resolution of the abortion conflict may seem, he nonetheless oilers a primer that rests on terra firma: the legal origins of the right to abortion.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0393309568
Publisher: Norton