19 January 2011

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Book Review, part 2)

Picking up where we left off in the first part of this review-

Part Two is titled, An Analysis of Pro-abortion and Pro-choice Arguments.

Ch 7- 'A Woman's Right to Her Body'- Sproul deals with these issues in this chapter- the constitutional 'rights' to privacy; are a woman's rights to her own body absolute?; is the fetus a part of the woman's body?; does a father have rights in reference to the fetus?

Ch 8- 'Three Frequent Assertions'- In this chapter, the three basic assumptions of the pro-abortion argument are considered:  (1) If abortion is illegal, women will have dangerous 'back-alley' abortions; (2) It is inconsistent to be anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment; and, (3) Men should not speak about abortion because it is a women's issue. 

First, Sproul logically argues that for those who believe abortion is the killing of a human being, continuing to protect those who are having abortions is 'ethically intolerable' (p. 105).  He also argues that if abortion is unjust, then the protection of those who engage in the practice is not a duty of the state.  (In other lectures, I've heard Dr. Sproul more fully develop this idea that laws against abortion are not a matter of asking the state to be the church, but rather asking the state to be the state.  I wish he developed these ideas a bit more fully here.)

Second, he refutes the second objection by showing the logical inconsistency that even if anti-abortion people are wrong on the issue of capital punishment, that doesn't make them wrong on abortion.  This is an example of poor logic and is easily illustrated to those who use such an argument.

Third, Sproul shows how the third argument about abortion only being a women's issue is 'specious' (p. 107). Jesus was a man...does he have a right to speak on the issue?  All arguments such as this one are ad hominem.

Ch 9- 'The Pro-Choice Position'-  Because of time and political tactic, the real difference between 'pro-abortion' and 'pro-choice' has been obscured in this country.  Sproul give a good historical analysis of the two, and how they become one.  This chapter is very different than what we usually hear on the subject of abortion from either side of the issue, and may be the most helpful and most informative chapter in the book for many people.

The following paragraph from page 115 answers Dr. Sproul's question, "Do we have the moral right to choose what is morally wrong?"  In other words, is the argument opposing laws against abortion because they restrict freedom-of-choice a valid one?

"Again, every law enacted limits or restricts someone’s
choices. That is the very nature of law. If we do not wish to
restrict other people’s choices through legislation, we must stop
legislating and cease voting. I think that most people will grant
that freedom of choice is not an absolute freedom. No human
being is an absolute law unto himself. Unless we are prepared to
buy into an ethical system of pure relativism by which law and
society become impossible, we must flee as the wind from the
proposition that the individual is autonomous."

In moving to application of the abstract, Sproul says on page 116,

"To move from the abstract into the concrete, I wonder
whether pro-choice activists object to laws protecting their
personal property rights? Does the thief breaking into a home
to steal someone’s television have the inalienable right to make
that choice? Does a man have the right to choose to rape a
woman? These extreme examples make it obvious that freedom
of choice cannot be considered an absolute right."

Ch 10- 'The Problem of Unwanted Pregnancies'- Sproul deals with the important idea that the central issue, abortion on demand, should not be clouded by peripheral issues such as rape or medical abortions. Undesirability is never a moral justification to kill a child, either after or before birth. He then confronts the actual statistics around the number of pregnancies resulting from rape or necessary in therapeutic (medical) abortions.  Those numbers are small, but real to the person in the situation.  Sproul offers reasons why and how to avoid killing the fetus in these situations.


Here's the link to the book on Ligonier's website-


Portions used in this review were used by permission, per email on December 6, 2010, from D. Finnamore.

This book's copyright information: © 2010 by R.C. Sproul, Published by Reformation Trust Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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