Abortion and Divorce in Western Law Themes
by Mary Ann Glendon

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Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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Abortion and Divorce in Western Law is an academic study in comparative family law and is not an explicitly Christian work. However, its subject matter, abortion and divorce, are considered by most Christians to be crucial social questions relating to their religious faith. In addition, Glendon is a leading American lay Catholic, so it is not surprising that her study raises issues of critical importance to Christians and contains a certain Christian perspective.

The legalization of abortion is a relatively recent phenomenon in the West, but Christian ethics has always addressed this and other questions of human life and procreation. Few issues would seem to divide many Christians from contemporary legal norms as what is viewed as abortion on demand. Glendon criticizes America’s disregard for the value of life or potential life in the name of abortion rights, and she contrasts the support pregnant European women receive, consistent with these nations’ religious history of community support, with the lack of a family social net for pregnant women in the United States. Likewise, in questions of divorce, the Christian tradition has applied Jesus’ command in marriage that “what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Certainly canon law and the law of most Christian nations forbade most forms of marital dissolution until contemporary times. Again, Glendon’s critique of the modern “no-responsibility divorce” would be echoed by most Christian ethicists.

The extreme nonregulatory position in American abortion and divorce law cannot be explained in religious terms. However, the American emphasis on individualism and freedom from government interference is traceable at least in...

(The entire section is 404 words.)