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Friday, September 6, 2013

Ten Books Every Pro-Life Advocate Should Read (And Own)

As a little bit of a lighter post for today, I'd like to present the ten books that I believe every pro-life advocate should read and own. These are all books that I have read and studied, and if you take the time to do the same you will be prepared to address just about any argument that a pro-choice person would present you with.

So without further ado, here are the books:

1. The Ethics of Abortion: Women's Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice by Christopher Kaczor. This is simply the best pro-life defense in print today. This book is even endorsed by pro-choice philosopher David Boonin, who says of the book: "This is one of the very best book-length defenses of the claim that abortion is morally impermissible. It is clear, thorough, thoughtful and carefully argued. I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the subject to read it and study it." The book essentially looks at the question of when personhood begins, and very thoroughly looks at various points argued at which we might become persons and makes a case for whether they're correct (personhood begins at fertilization) or that they're incorrect. Then he spends chapters discussing whether or not it's morally permissible to abort persons, if the unborn are, in fact, persons, and how the development of artificial wombs would affect the abortion debate.

2. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice by Frank Beckwith. Beckwith is a legal scholar and presents a very helpful and informative discussion about the history of the legalization of abortion in this country, and many of the misconceptions about abortion law. Beckwith also spends time laying out and developing the Substance View, which is essentially the position that we are the same human being now as we were in the womb. A substance is an entity that maintains its identity through change, so at all points in our life we are the same entity from fertilization to natural death. Because of this, it was just as wrong to kill me in the womb as it is to kill me now. Beckwith also spends time examining pro-choice arguments and responding to them. This book is also endorsed by pro-choice philosopher Eileen McDonagh.

3. The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture by Scott Klusendorf. This book is written more with Christians in mind so may not be as appealing to non-religious pro-life advocates, or pro-life people of other faiths. I would still encourage non-Christians to read this book because there are great arguments to use in discussions with pro-choice advocates that don't rely on religious views.

I would say that if you read and study the three books I just mentioned, you will be prepared for any encounter with a pro-choice person.

4. A Defense of Abortion by David Boonin. This is simply the best defense of abortion you can find. What makes the first three books such great books for a pro-life advocate to read is that they tackle the best arguments for abortion. If a position is tenable, it must be able to withstand the best arguments against it. So a book that only responds to bad arguments against its position and not the strongest arguments isn't even worth reading. Boonin's book develops the argument from bodily rights and pretty thoroughly responds to most, if not all, of the pro-life arguments defended by pro-life philosophers. This book is also endorsed by pro-life philosopher Don Marquis. Any serious pro-life advocate needs to read this book and understand its arguments, and any pro-choice advocate should read this book to know what the best arguments in defense of abortion actually are.

5. Practical Ethics by Peter Singer. Peter Singer has become pretty infamous for some pretty extreme views (specifically his views on infanticide and bestiality). Singer's book is not strictly about abortion; it tackles a number of ethical issues. Singer actually believes that due to the responsibility objection to the violinist, bodily rights arguments are not sufficient to support the legalization of abortion. So Singer argues that the unborn are not persons at all so killing them for any reason need not necessarily be justified. And because the unborn are not different in any morally relevant way from infants, in some situations it may be justified to kill infants as well (provided it adds to the overall happiness of the parents; killing infants is not intrinsically wrong, it's only wrong if the parents want the child to live).

6. Embryo: A Defense of Human Life by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen. This book is a much needed defense of human life in current times, especially with the debate over embryonic stem cell research. Brilliantly argued and appealing to all with secular arguments, George and Tollefsen make an incredibly strong case for full humanity beginning at fertilization.

7. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl. Another book that's geared towards Christians but would be beneficial for just about anyone to read. The book isn't specifically abortion-related, though he does talk about abortion briefly, but the information contained within its pages can be useful for any conversation. The book illustrates how to stay in the driver's seat in a conversation rather than on the defensive, and to use questions to help people clarify their views and to diplomatically examine them to see if they hold up.

8. Aborting America by Bernard Nathanson, M.D. This book is out-of-print, but you may be able to find a cheap copy on Amazon. Doctor Nathanson was an OB/GYN, past president of NARAL and one of the key players in the fight to legalize abortion in the United States. After he first witnessed an abortion on an ultrasound, he realized what abortion does -- it kills a human being. He became an outspoken pro-life advocate. This book chronicles the fight to legalize abortion as well as his own pro-life conversion. There's also a valuable discussion on the arguments for and against abortion. It's worth noting that although he became Catholic later in life, he was an atheist when he became pro-life and wrote this book.

9. The Moral Question of Abortion by Stephen Schwartz. Another out-of-print book. This is the book where the SLED argument originates. But more importantly, Schwartz provides a very important and strong argument for why personhood begins at fertilization, not when an entity begins to exhibit certain properties that are understood as being personal properties.

10. Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent by Eileen McDonagh. Another book supporting the pro-choice position. McDonagh does not present as strong a case as Boonin or Singer do, and while I don't encounter many pro-choice people who hold to McDonagh's views, I do occasionally encounter someone on-line who tries to make her argument. So it's good to know the argument just in case you encounter someone who tries to make it, but it probably won't be often. Matt Dillahunty recently made this argument in a debate against pro-life advocate Kristine Kruszelnicki at the Freethought Convention in Texas earlier this year. McDonagh essentially makes the case that the man and woman who engage in sexual intercourse are not responsible for pregnancy; the embryo is. The man and woman just engage in an act that may produce a human embryo, but it's the embryo that forces a woman to become pregnant against her will. So in essence, the embryo is just a little rapist and since it's the embryo that makes the woman pregnant, the state is obligated to pay for abortions.

If you read and study these ten books, you will become a much stronger and much more effective pro-life advocate. There are many books that didn't make the list, and I will probably make another list in the future for numbers 11 through 20. But for now, these books should find their way onto your reading list.


  1. Great list! Will share! (One minor correction, there's an s as well as z in my name)

  2. Watever ranking u place on these books..but core remains in hand of women. How many females authored book u mentioned. Wat bout live xprnces of women who aborted and others who not aborted. I strongly say abortion has to b legalised as women travels through mental n physically journey from pre born to post born.
    If its really about killing in womb or as u mentiond personhood begins with fertilization then hold here...hv u forgotten ur meal !!! Wat did u hv today?? Fish or chicks or snails!! Were they not eggs or foetus at one tim. Does foeticide implies to your human? Animals life advocate also asks to be vegetarian so those who are against abortion must hv to be firstly agreed on to stop killing animals for taste. Morally any killing is unthical. It is woman who conceives...deliever...upbring the child. So decision should lie to her if she chooses to abort or deliever. And not the government.

    1. Hi Deepti:

      One of the books I mentioned was written by a woman, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock. My focus here was on books, not articles. I could list a number of articles I think people should read, but the books on abortion, for the most part, have been written by men. There are some books which would be beneficial to read that were written by women, such as Unplanned by Abby Johnson, but I would not consider these books to be required reading for a pro-life advocate because they don't help pro-life people making the case against abortion more effectively or persuasively.

      There is no fundamental difference between a preborn and a postborn child. The child is the same person through all points in their development, even though they've gone through developmental changes.

      Actually, for my meal today I had a banana and a cup of yogurt. :) However, I am not a vegetarian. There are many pro-life people who *are* vegetarians, but I believe one's value is based on what you are, not the kinds of things you can do. So no, it's not about killing in the womb, it's about the fact that abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

      The man and the woman have a hand in conceiving the child, but it is true that the woman has the more difficult burden, having to carry the child. But this more difficult burden does not justify giving her the choice between life or death for the child.

    2. Hi Wilcox. Glad to knw wat u had. The best food u prefered but i m sure u ll sooner turn vegetarian if u believe burden shldnt justify the choice. Considering Indian perspective,isolated n broken families on rise, child trafficking n beggary n orphanages escalating, so child birth is not an independent decision of the authority. Forced delievery may result into such diseases. Unlike developed nations,our government do not take safe responsibility of child if parents or mother cant upbring post delievery. If it had been the case,indian streets would not have been crowded wit real and trafficked beggars. Its sorrowful n highly disappointing. Its all open on roads but still ladies holding infants in arms aren't imprisoned. I strongly favour prochoice. This process begins wit woman n ends wit woman so only I,as a woman hav right to decide.
      It shld b very well planned process

    3. Hi, Deepti:

      Yes, the differences between developed and developing countries are great. However, even in developed countries like the United States, abortion is rampant, which is why I try so hard to argue against abortion and make it unthinkable in our country. However, even in developing countries, while I understand things are difficult, I'm not sure how they can justify taking an innocent human life. For example, if you would allow abortions for certain reasons, such as overcrowding, why stop at the unborn? Why not round up all children two years and under and have them all killed to ease overcrowding in the streets? If you couldn't bring yourself to support that choice, then the question remains what is the unborn? If the unborn are human beings like the toddlers in my example, then isn't it the case that we can't justify killing them to ease overcrowding and should seek a different solution to the problem?