Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Roger Resler- Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe v. Wade

455282: Compelling
Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe v. Wade - unabridged audiobook on CD
By Roger Resler / christianaudio

In the past 40 years, there have been many attempts from both sides of the abortion debate to frame the historical narrative to their advantage. Frequently, these attempts fail to address the fundamental issues involved because they do not take the time to understand the perspective of the other side. In his book, Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe vs. Wade, Roger Resler does the homework and offers a cogent analysis of the basic assumptions upon which the pro-abortion movement is based. Resler’s analysis is relentlessly logical and he attacks the key philosophical underpinnings of the movement rather than wasting time knocking down straw men. Resler is unashamedly arguing from a pro-life position but his characterizations of the “pro-choice” position are well supported by direct quotations from leaders within the movement. He has clearly made an effort to understand the other side and that makes his critique much more powerful.

I liked several things about the book. First, and most importantly, Resler calls attention to the fact that fundamentally the abortion debate is a civil rights issue. The crux of the issue is whether it is appropriate for our legal system to define living human beings as “non-persons” and therefore deny to them rights and protections under the law. As Resler points out, the question of when human beings become full “persons” is a metaphysical rather than a scientific question. There is no biological question that a genetically unique human begins life at conception. The question is whether this human life should legally be considered a “person”. Resler, like some others before him, highlights the fact that this is a debate about worldview issues rather than facts. From a legal standpoint, it is a debate about whether all humans possess unalienable rights that must be protected or if utilitarian value determines ones standing before the law.

Resler’s analysis of the evolution of the semantics of abortion debate was also well done and valuable. I listened to the audiobook and was appreciative that the author narrated it. The reading was well done and quotations were often direct recordings of those quoted. Even when they were not, different voices were used which helped me follow the arguments and to keep my attention engaged. I especially appreciated the audio from the oral arguments before the court.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Resler is fond of overstatement and that the book gets redundant at times. There is a tendency toward dramatic emphasis but it simply reinforces the author’s passion for the subject and is not too distracting. The organization of the work and Resler’s desire to address each section thoroughly lends itself to a certain amount of repetition but the value is that each argument is essentially a contained unit increasing the usefulness of the book as a reference work. Resler is not the first person to make the arguments included in the book but his grasp of the material is outstanding and this book will be a helpful resource to those who are looking for a single volume that covers the range of issues involved. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about Roe vs. Wade or the abortion debate in general.

As Christians, we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore have intrinsic rather than functional value. This is an ethical rather than a scientific debate and, as members of this society, it is one in which we must not avoid participating. I agree that abortion should never become the central issue for any Christian church. The ministry priorities of a gathered church should always be the Gospel ministry rather than any social, economic, or political concern. The mission of the gathered church, however, does not detract from our responsibility as individual Christian citizens to be a clear voice in defense of basic principles of justice for the weak and vulnerable. 

If you think that these concerns are unnecessary I encourage you to read Mary Elizabeth Williams recent article at entitled "So What if Abortion Ends a Life". The trajectory of this line of thought that for life to be valuable it must possess some sort of functional utility is not difficult to see. In fact, as any good student of history will know, we have seen it numerous times before with disastrous results.

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