ABORTION: THE PERSONAL DILEMMA, by R.F.R. Gardner; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972; 288 pp., $5.95. [reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko]
The author of this book is a practicing gynecologist as well as an ordained minister in the United Free Church of Scotland. His credentials for discussing this subject from a Christian point of view are, therefore, impressive.
The book is divided into three main sections. The first section deals with “The Abortion Scene Before and After Liberalizing Legislation.” Legislation liberalizing abortion was passed in Great Britain in 1967, and the author discusses what effect this legislation has had on the situation in Great Britain. While this section is particularly of value for those living in the British Isles, it does offer some insights into what one may expect when such legislation is passed in our own country. And the prognosis is not good.
The second section deals with “The Ethical Question: Is Abortion Ever Justified?” It is, of course, this section which is of particular interest to us. And the author has some interesting and valuable material presented. Going out from the viewpoint that the Scriptures are authored by the Holy Spirit and are normative for life, as the objective standard of God’s will, the author condemns all situation ethics and the role this has played in the abortion controversy. He also approaches the problem of abortion from the viewpoint of whether the fetus is a soul from the moment of conception. This he answers negatively; and, as a result, condones abortion in some cases on grounds other than saving a mother’s life.
The third section deals with “The Medical And Social Question: Is Abortion Justified In This Case?” In this section such questions are discussed as whether abortion is justified in the case of an unwanted child, an illegitimate pregnancy, the possibility of a deformed or retarded child, etc. He also looks at the problem from the viewpoint of the effects of abortion upon the mother or others who may be involved. In these cases too Gardner condones abortion in some circumstances. We cannot agree with the author’s conclusions in this book by any means. Perhaps at especially three points the book falls short: 1) It fails to reckon sufficiently with sin, which enters into the whole subject. That is, it fails to reckon with the fact that sin creates insoluble problems in life, especially outside the sphere of the Church, and that sin must be reckoned with in the whole treatment of unwanted pregnancies. 2) It fails to consider the fetus as a person from the moment of conception and fails to deal with the problem of the killing of a person. 3) It fails to apply the objective standard of the Word of God throughout, permitting social and economic grounds for abortion in some cases.
However, the book is a valuable one. Its value is due to several features. 1) It is written by a doctor who comes face to face with this problem in all its ramifications every day of the week. It is not a book written by a theoretician far removed from the problem. 2) It is crammed full of extremely valuable information on every aspect of the problem. 3) It cites many case histories which help to put the problem in the glaring light of every day life.
The book is recommended therefore. It is valuable reading for anyone who wishes to make a thorough study of the problem. But its conclusions are not always correct.