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Abortion and Unborn Human Life.

This philosophical treatise provides a comprehensive defense of the strict antiabortion position. The central argument is syllogistic: "Intentionally killing an innocent person always is morally wrong. Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent person. Therefore, abortion is always wrong"(1). The work is primarily a careful critique of popular defenses of abortion: the refusal of all personhood to the prenatal human (Tooley); the gradualist account of fetal personhood (Summer); the account of abortion as nonintentional homicide (Thomson); the social-consequentialist apology (Lowell). Of special interest is the refutation of the delayed-animation argument (Donceel, Wolter, Shannon), which has enjoyed currency within the Catholic community.

In his polemic against philosophical justifications of abortion, Lee successfully retrieves certain Aristotelian categories. He locates moral agency, rather than murky consciousness, as the proper criterion for the recognition of personhood. He employs the category of substance to designate the unique human organism, rather than fluctuating attributes of the organism, as the proper subject of rights. His use of "active potentiality"(60) to describe the capacities of the human person from conception imports a sophisticated version of act/potency into the confused debate over "potential persons."

The book's brilliant refutation of the dominant proabortion apologies is stronger than its own defense of the prolife position. To demonstrate the truth of the antiabortion case, it is not sufficient to prove the contradictions and inadequacies of the proabortion position. Certain moves, such as the quick transition from establishing the humanity of the embryo to establishing its personhood, require more detailed analysis. Certain key terms also demand more careful articulation. In the opening premise of the central syllogism ("Intentionally killing an innocent human person always is morally wrong"), the substitution of "intentional" for the more traditional "direct" yields to a subjectivism which the author otherwise shuns.
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Author:Conley, John J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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