Review Articles and Reports
For a comprehensive bibliographical guide to abortion, see Diane E. Fitzpatrick, A History of Abortion in the United States: A Working Bibliography of Journal Articles (Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, 1991). For excellent surveys of the philosophical issues, see Nancy (Ann) Davis, “Abortion,” Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland, 1992), Vol. I, pp. 2–6; Mary Ann Warren, “Abortion,” Blackwell Companion to Bioethics, edited by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), pp. 127–134; and especially John Harris and Søren Holm, “Abortion,” The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics, edited by Hugh LaFollette, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 112–135.
Anthologies and Books
There are a number of excellent anthologies of selections dealing solely with the issue of abortion. The Abortion Controversy—25 Years After Roe v. Wade, A Reader, 2nd ed. edited by Louis P. Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith (Belmont: Wadsworth, 1998) has a number of superb articles with a very balanced selection of viewpoints. The Problem of Abortion, 3rd ed., edited by Susan Dwyer and Joel Feinberg (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996) contains a number of important pieces covering a wide range of positions, as does The Ethics of Abortion: Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice, rev. ed., edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1993). Lewis M. Schwartz’s Arguing about Abortion (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993) not only contains a number of important essays, but also (a) provides a well-done introduction to reconstructing and evaluating argumentative discourse and (b) offers an outline and analysis of six of the essays contained in the anthology.
Among the many excellent books on the morality of abortion, see David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), which contains a critique of Boonin and others. Jeff McMahon’s The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, and Stephen D. Schwarz with Kiki Latimer, Understanding Abortion: From Mixed Feelings to Rational Thought (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012), which presents an account of the ethics of killing in cases in which the metaphysical or moral status of the individual killed is uncertain or controversial; he deals with not only with embryos and fetuses, but also anencephalic infants, persons in irreversible comas, and other difficult cases at the margins of life. Laurie Shrage’s Abortion and Social Responsibility: Depolarizing the Debate (New York: Oxford, 2003) argues for a reduction of the current six-month period of abortion on demand but only if there is a significant increase in services to ensure universal access to abortion in earlier months of pregnancy. Jeffrey Reiman’s Abortion and the Ways We Value Human Life (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999) argues that the foundation of opposition to abortion is to be found in the way in which we value human lives “irreplaceably;” he provides an interesting critique of Don Marquis as well.
Bonnie Steinbock’s Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, 2 nd ed. (New York: Oxford, 2011) concentrates primarily on the issue of the status of embryos and fetuses, whereas F. M. Kamm’s Creation and Abortion (New York: Oxford, 1992) develops a broader theory of creating new people responsibility and explores the issue of abortion within this context; these themes are extended in her Morality, Mortality: Rights, Duties, and Status (New York: Oxford, 2001). Rosiland Hursthouse’s Beginning Lives (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987) includes a perceptive account of the issue of abortion. Christopher Tollefsen and Robert P. George, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (New York: Doubleday, 2008) is a strong defense of the moral status of the embryo, with special emphasis on the implications of this position for human embryonic stem cell research. Tollefsen is a philosophy professor and Robert George is a professor of law at Princeton and was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
Among philosophers, there are several key essays that have set the stage for the philosophical discussion of abortion. The most reprinted essay in contemporary philosophy is probably Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion,” which originally appeared in the inaugural issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall 1971), pp. 47–66 and is reprinted in her Rights, Restitution, & Risk: Essays in Moral Theory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), which also contains her “Rights and Deaths,” a reply to several critics of her initial essay. Don Marquis’s “Why Abortion Is Immoral,” Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86 (1989) is one of the most philosophically sophisticated arguments against abortion, and it too has generated a number of replies, including Walter Sinnott-Armstrong “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had: A Reply to Marquis on Abortion,” Philosophical Studies, Vol. 96, No. 1, (October, 1999), pp. 59–72. Elizabeth Harman’s “Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Fall, 1999), pp. 310–324, argues in favor of a very liberal theory of early abortion while addressing such issues as early miscarriages, love for early fetuses, and regret over abortions. Marquis has written a comprehensive defense of his position and addressed alternative positions in Don Marquis, “Abortion Revisited,” The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics, edited by Bonnie Steinbock (New York: Oxford, 2009), 395-414. For a discussion between Marquis and Tooley, see Philosophy TV (http://www.philostv.com/don-marquis-and-michael-tooley)
John T. Noonan, Jr.’s “An Almost Absolute Value in History,” is also widely reprinted (including in Noonan’s The Morality of Abortion, cited earlier) and is a strong, classic statement of the conservative view. Joel Feinberg’s “Abortion,” in Matters of Life and Death, edited by Tom Regan (New York: Random House, 1980), pp. 183–217, is a careful and nuanced discussion of the question of the moral status of the fetus. Roger Wertheimer’s “Understanding the Abortion Argument,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall, 1971), pp. 67–95, presents strong arguments for a fairly conservative view. For a very thoughtful discussion of the ethical issues surrounding abortion—and the philosophical traditions underlying our positions on these issues—from three different perspectives, see Michael Tooley, Celia Wolf-Devine and Philip E. Devine, and Alison M. Jagger, Abortion: Three Perspectives (New York: Oxford, 2009).
On the web, see:
•Judith Jarvis Thomson, "Abortion
," The Boston Review, Vol. XX, No. 3, (Jan 1994/Dec 1995). Full text & replies.
For the principle of double effect, see. G. E. M. Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy, Vol. 33 (1958), pp. 26–42, which raises important questions about the distinction between intended consequences and foreseen consequences. Phillipa Foot expresses doubts about the moral significance of this distinction in her article, “Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect,” in her Virtues and Vices and Other Essays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 19–32. Many of these key essays are gathered together in P. A. Woodward, The Doctrine of Double Effect (West Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001). For a strong defense of this principle, see Thomas Cavanugh, Double-Effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Abortion and Religion
Abortion has been a controversial issue within the Christian tradition, and this debate has generated countless resources, a number of which have been mentioned earlier. For the “seamless garment” doctrine of respect for life, see Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Selected Works of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin: Church and Society, Vol. 2 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000). In addition, abortion has been an issue in other religious traditions. See Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia, Studies in Comparative Religion, edited by Jonathan E. Brockopp and Gene Outka (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003); Harold G. Coward, Julius J. Lipner, and Katherine K. Young, Hindu Ethics: Purity, Abortion, and Euthanasia (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989); William R. La Fleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Damien Keown, ed., Buddhism and Abortion (Honolulu, Hawai’i: University of Hawaii Press, 1998); Daniel Schiff, Abortion in Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). John Hyde Evans’ Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) presents a nuanced and sympathetic articulation of the ways in which religiously-minded Christians think about issues of genetic technologies, and contains valuable insights in regard to the moral status of the embryo and fetus.
On Finding a Common Ground
Several recent contributions to the search for common ground in the abortion discussion are Laurence H. Tribe, Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (New York: Norton, 1992); Roger Rosenblatt, Life Itself (New York: Vintage Books, 1992); Ronald Dworkin, Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1993); and Elizabeth Mensch and Alan Freeman, The Politics of Virtue. Is Abortion Debatable? (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993). For an excellent review of Tribe’s book, see Nancy (Ann) Davis, “The Abortion Debate: The Search for Common Ground,” Ethics, Vol. 103, No. 3 (April, 1993), pp. 516–539, and Vol. 103, No. 4 (July, 1993), pp. 731–778. For a discussion of abortion within the general context of a theory of compromise, see Martin Benjamin, Splitting the Difference: Compromise and Integrity in Ethics and Politics (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1990), especially pp. 151–171; and Georgia Warnke, Legitimate Differences: Interpretation in the Abortion Controversy and Other Public Debates (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
For a model of how to conduct a fruitful dialogue on this issue, see the Boston Public Conversations Project (http://www.publicconversations.org), which brings together committed activists on various sides of controversial issues to engage in genuine dialogue. Their project initially arose in response to an abortion clinic shooting in Boston at the end of 1994.