NRL News

Authentic Human Flourishing: An interview with the author of “The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice”

by | Oct 21, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Christopher Kaczor, author of "The Ethics of Abortion"

Like many of you, I suspect, I have a stack of books on the floor that I’m been “intending to get to” (List A). And there’s an even larger stack of books I’ve read about and know I SHOULD read but haven’t yet (List B). The trick I’ve yet to master is to figure out which to move from List B to List A–and then read.

But one that clearly qualifies is “The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice,” by Professor Christopher Kaczor. If I had any doubts, they were removed when a colleague passed along an interview he gave to Kathleen Jean Lopez, who edits National Review Online, published yesterday (

Kaczor was asked what is his book intended to accomplish and how is it different?

“I’ve tried to write a comprehensive, up-to-date, and clear account of why abortion, the choice to intentionally kill a human being prior to birth, is always morally wrong. The book is comprehensive in that it deals with all the major arguments given by philosophers over the last 40 years to justify abortion. It is up-to-date in that I took into account the latest research in an area of ongoing philosophical dispute and inquiry. Finally, I tried to write it in such a way that both regular people and professional philosophers could read it with profit.

“My argument is not faith-based, but rather based on reason and evidence. There is no appeal to theological authority; there are no Scripture citations to justify conclusions, and no premises that come from ecclesial authority. The case against abortion is made to all persons of good will, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.”

The entire exchange is very much worth your time—and I hope you will pass it along via your social networks. Everyone will have his or her favorite responses, but mine include these two.

The question, in effect, was won’t there still be abortions, even if legal protection is returned to unborn children? Kaczor answers

“I think you are right that abortions took place prior to legalization and abortions would continue if abortion were made illegal. The same point can be made for theft, child abuse, and assault, which have always happened in human history and which will always happen. Indeed, if people never did the act in question, making a law about it would be superfluous. In any case, before anyone actually chooses abortion, that person first considers the possibility and endorses it as choiceworthy. I hope that my book can prompt people to reconsider the issue, to reconsider whether abortion is choiceworthy. Furthermore, thoughtful people, those concerned with justice and the promotion of authentic human flourishing, have a serious obligation to help all people, especially women in crisis-pregnancy situations, to find a way to provide concrete service and aid to everyone involved.”

Lopez, who asked fair but tough questions, then inquired what does his argument (or any pro-lifer’s argument) have to say to pregnant women facing difficult circumstances?

“I believe that everyone, including the poor mom, the desperate teenager, and the single professional, desires to find true happiness. I also believe that Aristotle, and even more fully Thomas Aquinas, showed that the way to true happiness consists in activity in accordance with virtue. There can be, therefore, no authentic happiness found in activity that is unjust. Aristotle’s perspective has found a powerful analogue in the findings of contemporary positive psychology, which emphasizes the concept of flow in activity, strong relationships with others, and forgiveness.

“I know that many women face unbelievably difficult circumstances in their pregnancy. For this reason, I think that all people of good will have an obligation to help them, to celebrate their heroism when they choose life, and to love them even when they do not. I can think of one case in particular: a young student, not yet finished with her education, who found herself pregnant with a man she did not know well. With so many responsibilities, both to her extended family and to her studies, she felt desperate, alone, and trapped. It was truly an act of heroism for that woman to decide to place that child for adoption. I know the woman in the story very well. She is my birth mother. I feel such an enormous debt of gratitude to her. Even though her choice was unbelievably difficult, I know and she knows that she made the right decision not to end my life. I don’t think there is any woman who in the long term regrets, even in the most difficult of circumstances, making the choice for life. But I know there are many thousands of women who still remember and mourn, even decades later, the date that their baby would have been born.”

Do take ten minutes out and read this online interview at Meanwhile, I have to move “The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice” up through Lists B and A to my reading desk.

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Categories: Abortion