Abortion Notes - AQA AS

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"Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy by artificial means"
Law in the UK on Abortion
Legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy with the consent of two doctors.
After this period, it is only legal if there is a serious threat to the life of the mother or the
foetus is severely disabled.
Many argue there is a clear distinction between being a human and a person
Jack Mahoney personhood criteria: rationality, ability to make free choices, emotions
and experiences.
Michael Tooley not a person if lacks consciousness of self.
Possible Definitions of Personhood
Relational Factors
Only becomes human when it is accepted by others
Personhood = social convention
EG parents giving a baby a name
Biological development and viability many people have tried to establish when the
development of a foetus becomes a person. Ideas and debates are
Conception The being formed by the union of the male sperm and female ovum an embryo or
zygote. Catholics and Buddhists believe this is when life begins
Pope Pius XI ­ "foetus is a human being from conception and the life of an unborn is as sacred
as that of its mothers. This view was reinforced by Pope Paul VI
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1994 ­ "from the first moments of his existence, a human
being must be recognised as having the rights of a person"
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" Jeremiah 1:5b
Primitive streak The faint streak that is the earliest trace of the embryo in the fertilized
ovum of a higher vertebrate
Lewis Wolpert (biologist) ­ "the primitive streak is the most important point in the development
of a human being"
Viability the length of pregnancy after which a child born prematurely has a chance of survival.
20/21 weeks.

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Birth Mary Anne Warren "birth sees the beginning of a true moral status"
She argues that if a foetus is a person, then sperm and ovum are persons too.…read more

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The Church of England recognises that each individual will have differing views on the
subject.…read more

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Buddhists are expected to take full personal responsibility for everything they do and for
the consequences that follow.
The ethical consequences of the decision will also depend on the motive and intention
behind the decision, and the level of mindfulness with which it was taken.
First Precept of Buddhism not to kill is violated and this is tantamount to killing a
human being.…read more

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Strengths and Weaknesses of the Sanctity of Life Argument
Strengths Weaknesses
· Values all human life equally ­ · Charles Darwin challenged the biblical
regardless of status or gender view of imago Dei with his theory of
· States clearly that killing is always natural selection
wrong and respects individuals future · Kant ­ saw no reason to link vital signs
· Gives everyone equal dignity to valuing life but he did link the
· Avoids too much group pressure and possession of reason to…read more

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· Not murder if you believe life begins at · For many religious people such as
birth e.g. GB law. Catholics life begins at conception ­
e.g. if a women has a miscarriage due to therefore abortion is murder.
a car crash ­ person responsible is not · Many Muslims believe that at 120
charged with man slaughter. If a woman days the foetus gets a soul ­ from
has a crash & a premature birth is then on abortion is murder.…read more

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Do humans have a right to life?
· Declaration of human rights states · Declaration of human rights states
that "all humans have a right to life" that "all humans have a right to life" ­
· Jews/ Christians believe that all interpreted differently by different
humans are born in the image of God ­ people in power in different countries
right to life is therefore given by God · Right to life for born human beings
· Bible talks about God breathing…read more


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