Pro-Life Journal Gets to Heart of Matter

By Heatherington, Kimberley | The Human Life Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Pro-Life Journal Gets to Heart of Matter


Heatherington, Kimberley, The Human Life Review


Human Life Review has provided intellectual commentary for more than three decades.

The cover of the Human Life Review is that of a scholarly journal, all type and titles. But the understated package wraps some of the most rousing and rigorously intellectual pro-life commentary aired in the public square-a role its editors, writers and readers have savored during the more than 30 years since it was first published.

"Good writing can win battles; great writing, whole wars," explained editor Maria McFadden, quoting her father, J. R (James Patrick) McFadden. The elder McFadden-who lost his life to cancer in 1998-responded to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by founding an anti-abortion lobbying organization, the Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Life, and The Human Life Foundation, which quarterly publishes the Human Life Review.

"I think he realized that [Roe v. Wade] was an opportunity for great writing to get enjoined in the battle," McFadden said of her father. "He was convinced that we needed to marshal all the arguments-philosophical, legal, literary-because he trusted in the power of truth, and words."

Covering the spectrum

While its primary topic is abortion, the journal also focuses its analysis and criticism upon the full spectrum of life issues, including genetic engineering, euthanasia and assisted suicide. It's an ethical terrain that has grown increasingly bizarre in recent years, with the result that the Review frequently educates the pro-life movement itself by detailing incidents so extreme as to defy the imaginations of seasoned activists.

"Even pro-life people sometimes can't believe some of the things we publish," Maria McFadden shared. "I remember I gave a speech once about fetal harvesting for experiments. The audience was looking at me with horror. Some things are so horrible that people hope that it's hype and not necessarily true-but unfortunately, it is true."

The bylines populating the Review's list of former and current contributors exemplify some of Catholicism's fiercest intellects, among them playwright and politician Clare Boothe Luce, journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, Cardinal John J. O'Connor and newly elected U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon.

Yet, as a nonsectarian publication, the Review's writers bridge a spectrum of denominations and beliefs, including Nat Hentoff , a self-described "Jewish atheist." The arguments of Hentoff- who has perplexed many on the ideological left with his denunciations of abortion- are, Maria McFadden suggested, journalistic evidence that the defense of life is informed not only by faith, but innate morality and logic. "For Nat, it's purely a human-rights issue. He's an eloquent voice for the unborn. …

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Pro-Life Journal Gets to Heart of Matter
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