A Riskier Discourse

How Catholics Should Argue Against Abortion

“Can we talk about abortion?” Dennis O’Brien, Peter Steinfels, and Cathleen Kaveny asked in a noteworthy exchange in Commonweal (September, 23, 2011). Let me jump into the conversation and insist: Yes, we can. But in my opinion we can’t talk about it in the way most Catholic ethicists now do—at least not if we want to address the problem of abortion as it really is. If we want to do that, we need to expand the terms in which the Catholic case against abortion gets made.

In his excellent 2010 book The Ethics of Abortion, Loyola Marymount philosophy professor Christopher Kaczor identifies “the status of the human being in utero” as the crucial question on which “critic and defender of abortion disagree.” Sure enough, Catholic ethicists have tended to focus on just this question. Patrick Lee, in the recently published second edition of Abortion and Unborn Human Life, makes a strong case that “the human being is essentially a physical...

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About the Author

Bernard G. Prusak is associate professor of philosophy and director of the McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.