LIFE ITSELF: Abortion in the American Mind by Roger Rosenblatt
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LIFE ITSELF: Abortion in the American Mind

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Life's editor-at-large Rosenblatt (Children of War, 1983) calls for a cease-fire in America's battle over abortion, brilliantly drawing up a resolution that tolerates this ""imponderable, agonizing and fundamentally ambiguous element in our national life."" Rosenblatt argues that our politicized pro-choice/pro-life schism came about because of Roe v. Wade's ""misidentification of abortion as purely a rights issue."" In fact, he says, it is far more complicated, filled with grief and shame and ultimately without any clear-cut solution. Americans, the author argues, are finally ready to accept abortion as the ""irreconcilable problem"" that it is. Most, he writes, think ""abortion must be preserved as an option. Most of these same Americans also dread the practice of abortion."" (According to polls cited here, 73% favor ""abortion rights,"" yet 77% see abortion as a form of murder.) Speaking with the logic, clarity, and compassion necessary for public discussion of this most private and difficult subject, Rosenblatt argues for a formula of ""permit, but discourage,"" setting his argument in a far-reaching historical context. Looking at laws and practices from Sumeria, Greece, and Rome to those of Hindus, Jews, Christians, etc., he shows that a civilization's handling of abortion always has depended upon its particular character. And never have the questions of when life begins or what justifies abortion been resolved. Rosenblatt traces America's moral struggle with abortion to our Puritan heritage, our individualism, and ""our preoccupation with evil, our dogged middle-classness, especially as regards sexuality and the role of women."" Finally, the state of Iowa serves him as a model in which people are ""pro-choice with the sort of reservations that humanize the issue."" A profound book, daring to lift the issue of abortion out of the political mire to a higher humanistic plain. Rosenblatt's ""permit, but discourage"" resolution seems not only possibly workable, but holds the promise that we might address the causes of societal ""collapse"" and not the fallout.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House