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"As an introductory text, it does everything right."

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―Theodore Schick, Professor of Philosophy, Muhlenberg College, USA

"This – in my humble view – is one of the best books I have ever read on the issue of abortion."

―Paul  Schotsmans, KU Leuven

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A Critical Introduction to the Ethics of Abortion: Understanding the Moral Arguments addresses some of the most prominent and influential arguments on the abortion debate. These include the Being a Person versus Functioning as a Person Argument, women's rights vis-à-vis the rights of the foetus, personhood as an essentially contested concept, and a virtue ethics approach. Also covered are central bioethical issues concerning prenatal screening, stem cell research and cloning. Based on a critical assessment of the evidence, the book offers an impartial view and draws on the importance of critical thinking and the logic of argumentation. Providing an overview of the legal history of abortion in the United States, it discusses five of the most influential Supreme Court cases on abortion law during the past fifty years and examines the current state of abortion law, politics and the main trends. 

Presenting a balance between ethical concepts, views and arguments, A Critical Introduction to the Ethics of Abortion is an up-to-date introduction to the choice of abortion illustrating the importance of evidence, clear thinking and good arguments for supporting one's ethical beliefs.



This – in my humble view – is one of the best books I have ever read on the issue of abortion. I have a lifelong interest in this debate, being involved in many Belgian debates on the legislation of abortion (cf. the refusal of the Belgian King Boudewijn to sign the law in 1990). My appreciation goes essentially to the didactic outline: every chapter finishes with study questions. Being retired now and no longer involved in teaching, I°regret not to have had this book in my hands earlier. The author also offers insight into the ethical theories and models that provide a background framework for all those who have developed viewpoints in this matter."A timely, balanced, and comprehensive examination of the abortion controversy. ....You do not have to agree with the personal ethical viewpoints and arguments of the author to be impressed by this work"


―Paul  Schotsmans, KU Leuven

“A timely, balanced, and comprehensive examination of the abortion controversy. As an introductory text, it does everything right: it presents the material in a clear and engaging manner, it makes explicit the premises underlying the various positions, and it models good philosophical practice by evaluating those positions in an even-handed and objective manner.”


―Theodore Schick, Professor of Philosophy, Muhlenberg College, USA

“This book is a refreshing teaching resource, bringing rigour and nuance to an often stale and gratuitously-polarised debate. Cantens is determined that readers should make up their own minds, and accordingly equips them in the basics of logic and normative ethics, empowering them to be active, critical participants in adjudicating the major arguments with an eye to their social context.”


―Arianne Shahvisi, Lecturer in Ethics, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK

"This book is by far my favorite on the topic of abortion—I own several. I’ve not come across one that does exactly what Cantens has done to the subject. What an elegant and cosmopolitan read!

The precise and systematic way in which each chapter was broken down, the diagnostic flow that cut through each exhibition, and Cantens own poised rendering of criticism (the goal is to open up dialogue not smash it smithereens) at both abortion defender and abortion critical argument alike was an excellent selling point for me. I discovered a more in-depth look at some feminist perspectives and was given a taste of novel trenchancy by the philosopher Rosalind Hursthouse as to how virtue ethics can be used to defend abortion—something that had never occurred to me until that moment. Another great selling point was how Cantens provides the reader with a brief introduction to both inductive and deductive argumention (cogency, soundness, structure, validity, strength, probability, etc.) and the different schools of ethical thought (deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics), assuming the reader is unfamiliar with these ethical categories and logical distinctions, before slowly proceeding to unpack some of the more popular arguments given by people like Schwarz, Thomson, Gibson, Tooley, Marquis, and others. He demonstrates exactly what they mean and don’t mean and how and where they work and don’t work in a way that is both incredibly reader and philosopher friendly.

This is a caliber of book that has the potential to wake one up from their dogmatic slumber. I will return to it often, either to refresh my memory or to reap from this enduring wellspring whatever insight I can gather if and when I find myself looking for parallels between apparently untried arguments that present themselves to me in the future, be they the truly trailblazing kind or only old faces in disguise aping a past and petered performance. The moral question of abortion is a perennial one, and it may be the case that it remains forever unanswerable, essentially contested as Gibson would say about personhood. But Cantens Critical Introduction gives me hope that the current disruptive trend towards vandalizing the inroads to civil discourse can be rehabilitated towards something more high-minded and intellectually honest for all involved.



― Cade Campbell, Amazon Reviewer

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