Life itself: abortion in the American mind

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Random House, 1992 - Political Science - 194 pages
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In Life Itself, Roger Rosenblatt redefines the debate on abortion and offers a resolution. Through columns in leading publications and his on-air essays for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Rosenblatt has become widely recognized as America's preeminent commentator on social and moral issues. In this book, he turns to the most bitterly divisive social question of our time. "Give abortion five seconds of thought and it quickly spirals down in the mind to the most basic questions about human life, to the mysteries of birth and our relationship with our souls", he writes. "It is difficult to disentangle, much less express, the feelings it engenders". Yet what we have seen in this country over the past twenty years has been the political warfare of extremists, not honest discussion among ordinary citizens with differing views. Life Itself attempts to establish an "uncommon ground" on abortion by using the deep ambivalence the great majority of Americans feel about the problem toward its resolution. We live in uncomfortable but manageable conflict on a number of important national issues, Rosenblatt writes. It is time to learn to live with conflicted feelings on abortion as well. To make his case, Rosenblatt traces the 4,000-year history of abortion, demonstrating that all civilizations have dealt with conflict on the issue, and have fashioned their resolutions to meet their particular structure and needs. Why then do Americans alone in history have so hard a time doing the same? Rosenblatt answers this provocative question by examining specific American characteristics of thought that have become particularly explosive when touched by abortion. Finally, through a series of interviews andspeculations, Rosenblatt determines that the country is more united in its attitudes about abortion than the political warriors would have us believe. In the end, he presents a formula by which we may begin to recognize and live with one another on this matter in spite of, and within, our divided views: . "To create a society in which abortion is permitted and its gravity appreciated is to create but another of the many useful frictions of a democracy. Such a society does not devalue life by allowing abortion; it takes life with utmost seriousness, and is, by the depth of its conflicts and the richness of its difficulties, a reflection of life itself".

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Life itself: abortion in the American mind

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Most polls report that the majority of Americans support the right of a woman to choose an abortion. Why then is this issue tearing our country apart, columnist Rosenblatt wonders. He traces the ... Read full review


Acknowledgments IX
A History of Contradiction
The American Anomaly

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A Defense of Abortion
David Boonin
Limited preview - 2003
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About the author (1992)

Roger Rosenblatt's essays for "Time" magazine and PBS have won two George Polk Awards, the Peabody, and the Emmy. He is the author of six Off-Broadway plays and fourteen books, including his guide to the art and craft of writing, "Unless It Moves the Human Heart", and the national bestsellers "Lapham Rising", "Rules for Aging", and "Children of War", which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University.

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