There are few ethical topics more controversial than abortion.Finding books on the topic is not very difficult, one needs only to search “abortion” on Amazon to find more than 10,000 results in the books category. Patrick Lee’s Abortion & Unborn Human Life (hereafter AUHL) stands out as one of the better pro-life books I have read, despite one major flaw.
AUHL starts with a syllogism:
1) Intentionally killing an innocent person always is morally wrong
2) Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent person
3) Therefore, abortion is always morally wrong.
The rest of the book (164 pages of content) serves to defend this syllogism.
Chapter one argues against the idea that unborn human beings become persons after birth. Lee’s arguments are very good until he starts to argue by going against substance dualism to make his case. I think that this is a major flaw of Patrick Lee’s book. Substance dualism serves as a powerful argument against abortion. Not only that, but to argue against substance dualism primarily for the sake of an ethical position doesn’t make a lot of sense. Lee does introduces several philosophical arguments against dualism, but they fail to make a sufficient case against the position. This makes the rest of his case seem weaker than it is, had it been bolstered by substance dualism rather than arguing against it. It is really unfortunate, because readers may walk away thinking that the case against humans becoming persons after birth is weaker than it is.
In chapter two, Lee argues against the idea that human beings become persons during gestation. This chapter is particularly strong, and Lee introduces many arguments I hadn’t thought about before. Particularly important to this argument is what it means to have “moral standing.” Often, pro-life advocates forget that we sometimes don’t share the same basic presuppositions as the pro-choice advocates. Lee helps to bring the focus back to the basics (I have focused on this elsewhere myself, see here).
Lee argues in chapter 3 that individual human beings come to be at the moment of fertilization. This is another very strong chapter in which Lee offers scientific and philosophical reasons to accept this position.
Chapters 4 and 5 address the particularly chilling (and more recent) arguments that abortion can be justified as non-intentional killing of human beings (4) or that preventing certain consequences permit the killing of human beings (5).
Overall, AUHL is a fantastic read. Lee produces a compelling and powerful case that abortion is morally wrong, no matter what. Despite the rather large flaw of arguing against substance dualism, the book is a must-read for those interested in a philosophical defense of the pro-life position.
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