Abortion, Execution, and the Consequences of Taking Life
This book focuses on the relationship between public morality and personal action in the American political community. It emphasizes the responsibilities of citizens and government to find and confirm truth, looking to specific sources: religious scripture and empirical events. Recognizing that we have a natural preference for distraction and distance from both sources of truth, Slack uses qualitative, open-ended interviews and direct observation to uncover the intimate consequences of life-taking in open societies.
Abortion and murder/capital punishment are instances in which there is a sequence of events that result in life-taking. The act of murder denies the sanctity of life of someone else. Abortion and capital punishment also deny the sanctity of the lives of others. The intimacy of life-taking is not typically acknowledged or remains hidden. This makes it difficult to assess the consequences for victims, survivors, and the political community as a whole. As a result, there is only a tenuous link between public actions that question the sanctity of human life and the moral compass professed by the American democracy.
The volume presumes a theocentric foundation envisioned by the American Founders. It explores the model’s first source of truth, biblical scripture, as it applies to the public actions of murder, abortion, and capital punishment. Then it investigates the intimate reality of these acts. These realities are examined in a variety of settings, resulting in a mosaic pattern of public action about capital punishment and abortion. Slack underscores the importance of government’s role of providing outward justice, as well as the citizen’s responsibility to be supportive of government tasks in order to reconcile the reality of life-taking with the moral compass professed in the American political community.
"Slack has produced an important book that energetically calls on readers to look beyond benefit-cost and cost-effectiveness calculations, reflect, and seek to ground public policy and administration firmly in morality."
—David H. Rosenbloom, Public Administration Review
“Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or even its first chapter, for that matter. Or, at least, don’t judge this particular book that way. If you do, you may never get to the real story that has been written by UAB professor James D. Slack, and that would be your loss. . . . Abortion, Execution and the Consequences of Taking Life, despite its ‘academic’ title and beyond its ‘academic’ first chapter, is a compelling, enlightening examination of both sides of the abortion divide, the capital punishment debate and the hard (and usually deserved) life lived by those sentenced to a life in prison. . . . The success of this book. . . is that Slack thoroughly examines the issues across the spectrum, and he does it honestly and objectively, regardless of his personal views, through dozens of conversations and first-hand observations.”
—Joey Kennedy, BirminghamNews
"On the matters of abortion, capital punishment, and other life and death topics that commonly take center stage in political debate, "Abortion, Execution, and the Consequences of Taking Life" is a read very much worth considering." — Midwest Book Review
"[This book] is a compelling, enlightening examination of both sides of the abortion divide, the capital punishment debate and the hard (and usually deserved) life lived by those sentenced to a life in prison.... Slack thoroughly examines the issues across the spectrum, and he does it honestly and objectively, regardless of his personal views, through dozens of conversations and first-person observations.... [L]ike any skillful writer, Slack takes us there, too. We overhear his conversations; we see what he sees and smell what he smells. Some of this is not pleasant. Maybe most of it. But it is real." —Joey Kennedy, Birmingham News "
James Slack has written an extraordinary book of profound relevance for our time. The work will be of interest to scholars and students alike seeking an understanding of the manner in which the core values of Western civilization intersect with the most compelling public policy issues in American politics today. Slack has managed to produce a concise, well-researched volume that is at once scholarly and highly readable. His analysis of the central theoretical and practical issues at stake in contemporary debates over abortion and capital punishment is particularly impressive. The argument is highly persuasive without being ideological or didactic, and displays an acute moral sensitivity and humaneness that is a welcome departure from the cold utilitarianism that marks so many treatments of the subject. Highly recommended." —Gregory S. Butler, Associate Professor, Political Philosophy, New Mexico State University
"James Slack has written a brilliant book. Moving effortlessly all the way from conceptually sophisticated political theology to the gritty details of prison existence, he shows that life can be taken in several ways and makes a powerful and compelling case against abortion and capital punishment, and makes a powerful and compelling case in favor of life imprisonment without parole. Highly recommended reading." —Murray Jardine, Jane Dickson Lanier Professor, Department of Political Science, Auburn University
"This book is must reading for all who believe they have a firm grasp of the "pro-choice/pro-life" abortion issue and the "capital punishment" issue. It is also must reading for those who do not feel they have a firm grasp of these deeply troubling and controversial issues. James D. Slack takes the reader on a penetrating journey that is steeped in the "real" or, in his view, the "truth" of the consequences of taking life. The journey is anchored in religion (Christian, Islam, and Judaism) with a philosophical overlay drawn from the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who at age 37 faced the "real" of the gallows in Nazi Germany. Slack's insights are derived in part on his direct observations of prisoners facing life without the possibility of parole in an Alabama correction facility and young women who experienced abortion. James D. Slack has given us a lucid but disturbing account of the public philosophy in America which condones abortion and capital punishment. Whatever your personal philosophy about these issues might be, this book will challenge you to think anew about abortion, execution, and the consequences of taking life. —Donald C. Menzel, President, Ethics Management International