Abortion- the termination of a pregnancy by artificial means- should we allow it?

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  • Abortion- the termination of a pregnancy by artificial means- should we allow it?
    • Judith Jarvis Thomson- women aren't morally obliged to complete every unwanted pregnancy
    • Jonathan Glover- calling afoetus a person from conception stretches the term beyond normal boundaries
    • Life begins:
      • At 24 weeks (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1991)
      • At birth, Mary Anne Warden- it no longer relies completely on its mother for survival
      • When the embryo embeds itself in the womb
      • When the heart beats? Or there are brain waves? Or it feels pain?
    • C of E and Situation Ethics followers- it's accepted if there's a threat to the mother's physical or mental health
    • Catholic Church:
      • 'A human person from the moment of conception... as sacred as that of its mother' -Pope Pius XI
      • 'Protected absolutely from... conception... the inviolable right of every innocent being to life' -Pope Paul VI
    • If the quality of life is good? Consider:
      • Constancy of pain
      • Ability to think/ enjoy life
      • Immanence of death
    • Peter Singer & Helga Kuhse- quality of life ethic- you are a person if you're conscious, self-aware, able to reason and be self-sufficient (But new born babies don't have these attributes!!!)
    • Mary Anne Warren- we can regard the foetus as a potential person (not necessarily with the right to life) if:
      • Is self-aware, as an individual and member of a social group
      • Can regulate itself through moral principles
      • Can communicate
      • It can reason
      • Can have conscious experiences
      • It has feelings
      • But not all adults satisfy all criteria, and at later stages some foetuses meet some of them???
    • UK law- it is legal up to the 24th week, or up to birth if the baby may be disabled or the mother's life is at risk. The foetus is viable after 24 weeks, and can live outside the womb. Requires 2 doctors to agree. When a foetus becomes a person, though, it must be given individual rights and protection
    • The Bible seems to regard the foetus as alive and important:
      • In God's 'image and likeness'
      • Abortion seems contrary to 'Be fruitful and multiply'
      • 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you'
      • The embryo has a spark of divinity from when God breathed life into Adam. Also, God took human form in Jesus, giving sanctity to the human  person
      • Only God can take life- 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away'. 'Thou shalt not kill'
    • At the least, extraordinary means (life support) need not be continued or even begun
    • Utilitarianism- assess each case on its own merits. Human life doesn't have absolute value or must be upheld. Perhaps the mother may react badly, the procedure goes wrong and she can't have more children, etc.?
      • Preference Utilitarianism- consider the mother's preferences, harm to other family members, etc.
    • Kantian Ethics-Abortion treats the embryo as a means to an end, which is wrong and goes against it's rights. Categorical imperative- hard to universalise, as there are many different situations and motivations for obtaining an abortion


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