(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Comparative law is the study of the laws and legal systems of different nations in order to deepen understanding of a particular nation’s laws. This field was systematically developed by French and German scholars in the late nineteenth century. In Abortion and Divorce in Western Law, Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon uses the methods of comparative legal scholars to explain the distinctive elements of American laws regarding abortion and divorce. As she explains in the introduction, she also adopts the perspective taken in Plato’s Nomoi (388-368 b.c.e.; Laws, 1804) that law is educational in purpose so that she can illuminate the differences between American and European law. Although Glendon does highlight provisions of abortion and divorce laws of European nations, in particular France and Germany, she does so largely to put American law in contrast and specifically to demonstrate that American law has embraced an extreme individual rights position on the legal spectrum.

Chapter 1 demonstrates how the laws regarding abortion in the Western world changed dramatically in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Of the twenty nations compared by Glendon (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, West Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States), the great majority abandoned strict abortion laws dating from the nineteenth century and adopted more permissive ones. Although these countries widely allow abortion, the United States goes furthest in content and characterization in its abortion laws. Only American law rejects any effort to preserve the fetus before viability and severely restricts regulation after viability. In social policy, the United States provides almost no direct social benefits to mothers, married or unmarried. In constitutional law, although legislation protecting fetuses is permitted in countries...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Glendon, Mary Ann. The Transformation of Family Law: State, Law and Family in the United States and Western Europe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989. In this later work, Glendon details the dramatic transformation of family law referred to in Abortion and Divorce in Western Law, particularly in England, France, the United States, and the former West Germany.

Santorum, Rick. It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2005. By a United States senator, this book responds from a conservative perspective to Glendon’s description of family law as a web of social, economic, and moral connections.

Shrage, Laurie. Abortion and Social Responsibility: Depolarizing the Debate. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2003. This book calls for modification of America’s abortion laws along the lines of other Western nations and endorses Glendon’s encouragement of the establishment of a greater family security net in the United States.

Zweigert, Konrad, and Hein Kötz. An Introduction to Comparative Law. Translated by Tony Weir. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1998. The definitive textbook in the field of comparative law, containing the methodology for Glendon’s study.