chapter  16
54 Pages

Toward A Thomistic Perspective On Abortion and the Law in Contemporary America

WithM. Cathleen Kaveny

Taking Thomas Aquinas's analysis of the nature, purpose, and limits of secular law as the author's criteria of assessment, this chapter argues that the plurality opinion in Webster is a singularly bad piece of jurisprudence. To anyone who acknowledges the intimate nexus Aquinas describes between wise law and a stable common good, it should come as no surprise that Webster has only intensified the polarization in one's society regarding abortion. Recognizing that Webster returned some of the responsibility for forging wise and practicable abortion laws to the state legislatures, the focus of the chapter shifts from constitutional interpretation to statutory draftsmanship. It suggests that the pro-life conviction of the immorality of abortion too often translates into a call for stringent criminal penalties, hut that this call ignores the proper differences between moral and legal sanctions. Consequently, the pro-life movement needs to supplement its analysis of the act of abortion with analysis of the law of abortion.