A Timely Book for a Troubled Time (and An Election
A review of Peter Kreeft's Three Approaches to Abortion
By Valerie Schmalz
During a recent election my young son Martin was asking about politics
any proud mother, I said, "and some day you might want to run for office."
Martin shot back: "When Im elected president, Ill make
abortion illegaland Ill make my brothers clean the White House."
With every election, I wonder who will take on the burden and the responsibility
of running for office. One of the greatest things we can do as parents is
to encourage our children to step out and take on the mission of carrying
our Catholic values into the public square. Making them do chores isnt
a bad thing either!
In the case of my now-10-year-old, I can see great things ahead. As I can
for each of our four boys with their tremendous talents. Of course, Im
their mother and like any parent, I think they can change the world. Meanwhile,
their father and mother and aunts and uncles oh, and grandmothers--are
trying to create a world where human life is respected and where people
can live in peace.
Thats why a book by Boston College professor Peter Kreeft strikes
such a cord for me. Published by Ignatius Press, it is called Three Approaches
to Abortion: A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Todays Most Controversial
Kreefts Three Approaches to Abortion is a book to give to a
pro-choice relative or friend with confidence and yet it is inspiring to
pro-lifers in the way it defines the debate over this critical issue.
"Abortion is the single most divisive issue of our time, as slavery
was for the nineteenth century, or as prohibition was for the 1920s,"
Kreeft says in his opening sentence. Kreeft believes abortion is an issue
that wont go away until we reach consensus--but he believes it
is possible to reach a pro-life consensus.
"This widely-read author and professor of philosophy tackles the abortion
issue with reason and compassion," First Things wrote in its
The National Catholic Register calls it "a slender book that
hits like a stiff punch."
Kreeft takes three approaches. The first argues logically in 15 steps from
the premise that we know what an apple is to the conclusion that abortion
must be outlawed. The second, titled "Why We Fight: A Pro-Life Motivational
Map," is an inventory of 15 motives that fuel pro-life work. The third
he calls a "a typical pro-life/pro-choice dialogue," and it addresses
the 15 most common pro-choice arguments.
Here is how Kreeft lays out the two sides:
"Intelligent, committed pro-lifers will not be satisfied
in principle with anything less than legal prohibition, or abolition,
of all abortion (though most pro-lifers are pragmatic enough to accept
partial abolitions as incremental steps toward that goal). And intelligent,
committed pro-choicers understand this and resist, also in principle,
any of these incremental steps.
"Pro-lifers find it intolerable that the most innocent and vulnerable
members of our society and our species are legally slaughtered. Pro-choicers
find it intolerable that women be forced by law to bear unwanted children
against their will. Neither side can or will budge, in principle."
Kreeft wrote the book for two groups: pro-life people to give to their pro-choice
friends, to explain themselves and their position; and for pro-choice or
undecided people who want to understand the pro-life position.
Each approach is different.
The first "apple" argument contends that if we share a view of
what is real
we must accept what abortion is and if we believe human life is an ultimate
value then abortion is always wrong.
"Why We Fight
" is the second and subjective motives approach
of the book. "It is not an option, it is a necessity," Kreeft
says to explain what drives pro-lifers. Kreeft lists 15 reasons. They include
love of family, love of country and love of sex.
Here Kreeft nails the lynchpin of support for legal abortion: We have no
fault divorce and no fault auto insurance, "why should abortion not
be our no-fault sexual insurance policy that removes our responsibility
for sexual accidents?"
And the crux of the pro-life opposition: "But what are those sexual
accidents? People! New little people."
Why else do pro-lifers fight? To stop violence, to fight for women. In an
argument espoused by pro-life feminists such as Feminists
for Life of America (www.feministsforlife.org) , Kreeft says: "One
of the biggest lies of abortionists is that they are feminists.
This is like calling cannibals chefs.
"We provide alternatives to abortion not only to save babies but to
That was the message of all the great, early feminists,
who saw abortion as the ultimate betrayal and abuse of women."
Finally, Kreeft imagines a dialogue between a pro-life and a pro-choice
Because Kreeft is presenting two sides and yet he is clearly on the pro-life
side, pro-choicers may quibble with his approach. However, the heart of
his dialogue and the heart of his book is this exchange:
Its a fact, its not a
theory but data, that serious and intelligent and honest people of good
will can and do take opposite positions, principled positions, on abortion.
You dont have to demonize your opponents to disagree with them on
a controversial issue like this.
"Isa: I dont demonize pro-choicers. I dont even
demonize abortionists. But I demonize abortion. Because I dont agree
with you that it is a controversial issue at all. I say it is a very clear-cut
Three Approaches to Abortion exhibits an honesty
and a willingness to engage with pro-choicers which is refreshing and
surely needed. It also provides definition and affirmation for those who
are already pro-life. Recent polls show an increase in those who believe
abortion is wrong; a sign of optimism for pro-lifers. Peter Kreefts
book is a great, honest, resource for anyone who wants to continue the
dialogue, and perhaps, person by person, help our society reach a pro-life
Read Introduction to Three Approaches
to Abortion | Peter Kreeft's
Valerie Schmalz is a free-lance journalist, married and the mother of four
boys. A member of Feminists for Life of America, she lives in San Francisco
where she works for Ignatius Press.
Three Approaches to Abortion:
A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Today's Most Controversial Issue
Author: Peter Kreeft
Length: 101 pages
Your Price: $9.95
The popular author and professor, Peter Kreeft, tackles the most controversial
issue of our times in his always unique and compassionate style. He presents
approaches to the abortion issue from a logical, psychological and dialogical
explanation of the pro-life position. Kreeft hopes that clear reason,
rather than force, will help convince people of the truth of abortion
and the need to protect innocent human life. He presents the objective
logical arguments against abortion, the subjective, personal motives of
the pro-life movement, and how these two factors influence the dialog
between the two sides of the abortion issue.
What is left to be said about the abortion debate? First of all,
that is it usually not much of a debate. Peter Kreeft points the way to
taking deepest disagreements seriously in creating and sustaining honest
Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus, Editor, First Things
We all condemn the atrocities of September 11. Yet many Americans
support legalized abortion, in which we execute every day more innocent
human beings than were killed in the World Trade Center. Peter Kreeft,
with his rare talent for explaining the obvious without patronizing or
pretense, offers here a unique guide for inviting sincere persons to consider
a basic truth that the law can never validly tolerate the execution
of the innocent.
Charles E. Rice, University of Notre Dame Law School
Peter Kreefts book argues for the humanity of unborn human
beings and their right not to be destroyed. Kreeft practices philosophy
the way a skilled brain surgeon practices his own art, i.e., with care,
caution, courage, cunning, capability, and conviction.
Donald De Marco, Author, The Heart of Virtue
Peter Kreeft, a Professor of
Philosophy at Boston College, is one of the most widely read Christian
authors of our time. His more than 25 best-selling books include Back
to Virtue, Love is Stronger than Death, Catholic Christianity, Prayer
for Beginners and A Summa of the Summa.