Book Review: Defenders Of The Unborn

Defenders Of The Unborn:  The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade, by Daniel K. Williams

When I read a book like this, my first question is, what is the author trying to prove?  It is easy enough to see that pro-abortion rhetoric that the pro-life movement only started after the disaster of Roe v. Wade is false, and that the belief that only Catholics cared about saving the life of the unborn is false as well.  What is less obvious is what the author is trying to accomplish with this historical investigation of the pro-rights argument of the pro-life movement.  His general hostility to Republican politics appears to be far from unusual, and he delights in showing that the pro-life movement had a larger tie to culture of life and quality of life and social democracy than the Republican party has, and that is probably the clearest line of investigation into understanding the author’s intent, as a way of encouraging a kinder and gentler pro-life politics in the present age.  By and large, I don’t see how the pro-rights argument of the pro-life movement is distinct from my own views [1] about the rights of the unborn to have a fair chance at life and the obligation of others, from mothers to the medical community, to do nothing to keep that from happening.

This book is about 250 pages long and is divided into nine chapters with an introduction and epilogue.  The author begins with the clash of values between Catholics and the liberal European Jewish immigrants who were the first proponents of abortion in the United States (1) before moving on the political fight that began in the 1960’s when some states started moving towards abortion (2).  The author discusses the initial losses of the pro-life movement (3) as well as the campaign for a national right to life (4) during the period where issues of life involving the Vietnam War and civil rights were of particular importance.  Then there is a discussion of the unpopularity of “abortion on demand” during the late 1960’s (5) and the new image of the unborn that showed many people that the unborn were little human beings and not mere blobs of cells (6).  The author then turns his attention to the relationship of pro-life members to the early Progressive movement (7), the national battle over the rights of the unborn (8) and what happened to pro-life politics after Roe v. Wade that made pro-life a Republican rather than a Democratic party phenomenon (9).

By and large, this particular book did not affect my own particular political views at it relates to the abortion issue.  The author was certainly informative when it comes to the history of the pro-life movement and provides yet another example of how leftist Jewish elements were hazardous to the well-being of our population, and how the political alliance between Evangelicals and conservative Catholics that I have seen in my own life was achieved by virtue of the common culture of life that both traditions supported.  The author also demonstrates how Roe v. Wade was a lot like the Dred Scott decision in attempting to enshrine a wicked view that was losing ground in the court of public opinion with the patina of constitutional legitimacy, and how difficult it is to overcome that sort of corrupt legal decision.  If the author and I are not exactly the same in terms of our political worldviews, I see no reason why the support of a pro-life argument that is based on the rights of the unborn is problematic for someone who is conservative and not particularly fond of libertarian politics in general.  The history is good, but what was the author trying to prove, anyway?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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