This is Ramesh Ponnuru's new book. The title is provocative and a bit misleading. The "party of death" refers to those who support unfettered abortion access, assisted suicide, embryo-destructive research, and so on - politicians, activists, scholars, judges and medical types. Included in that Venn diagram is the Democratic Party, but to tell the truth, that is really not the focus, nor the primary "party of death" of which Ponnuru writes, although it gets its due attention, particularly in the chapters on abortion.
Ponnuru says that part of the reason he wrote the book is because there had not been a book on life issues published for the general reading public in twenty years, and with the advent of new issues, one was needed. It's a useful book, especially for people who may not be familiar with the issues, or who could use some education. Those who follow life issues closely won't find a great deal that's brand new here, but that's not the point. The value of the book is the way in which Ponnuru connects dots, rips the lid off lies and ambiguities, and asks simple, quite logical questions, as in, "Do pro-choice advocates really disagree with Peter Singer about infanticide?"
I think the most important aspect of this book for all of its readers is the way in which Ponnuru rather relentlessly hangs on to logic and refuses to accept the assumptions of conventional wisdom. The arguments of prolifers are frequently denigrated for having a religious dimension, but really, which argument is based on spiritual voodoo and which on reason? The view that there's some point, based on something that we can't quite commonly define, at which this growing human being somehow enters the human community and before which can be killed? Or the view that says, "Conception. Individual human life begins then. Protect that life from that point on."
Ponnuru does a great service in his chapter on abortion and American history. There's been much written on this since the infamous lie-filled brief filed in support of Casey, and even a couple of books, but it's quite useful to have, in one relatively compact space, the historians' contention that abortion wasn't a violation of common law in colonial America and that the move to criminalize abortion in the 19th century was totally based on the desire to protect professional turf, picked apart, point by point. (A good book focusing on this latter point is The Physicians' Crusade Against Abortion by Frederick N. Dyer.)
Ponnuru makes his way gracefully and clearly through all the cant, examining the contentions of those who support and work for abortion, assisted suicide and embryo-destructive research and asks, "What are they really saying?" "What motivates them?" "What are they not saying?"
It's not an overly political book - it's like the issues themselves, a combination of politics, culture, science, social concerns and questions, as well as ethics, of course. It's an excellent introduction to the issues as they stand right now, asking the reader to simply try to see things as they are.