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Outline some key issues arising from abortion and give religious responses to them.
In this essay, I will be examining Christian responses to these issues.
The first and most difficult issue to solve about abortion is the concept of when the embryo
becomes human. Christians would use Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."
This leads Christians to believe that God has had a plan for all of us, even before conception.
Therefore the earliest point at which the foetus can be called an embryo is at conception (the point at
which the unique selection of genetic information is present which will go on to be a human). Catholics
also follow this belief because of Pope Pius IX who said in 1869 that a foetus is a human right from
conception. Therefore following these two beliefs abortion is wrong for Protestants and Catholics.
Again, they would draw information from the bible. Christians would look at Exodus, the Ten
Commandments which state "Do Not Kill." A straightforward rule which means abortion cannot take
place as the doctor would be killing the baby. In Catholic Natural Law, there are 5 purposes for
humans. One of which is to "Survive" and another which is to "Reproduce". These are specific
purposes for humans, which must be fulfilled. Abortion is therefore breaking both of these, hence
making it wrong.
The second important issue which arises from abortion is the idea of life being sacred. Many
Christians would agree with this statement because in Genesis one it says we are made "in the image
of God" (imago die). Sanctity of life means that we belong to God, we are not our own to do as we
choose, "it's God who directs the lives of his creatures everyone's life is in his power." We do not
have the right to end a life, only God should be allowed to do such an act. However, there are some
Christians like Joseph Fletcher (a situationist) who have teleological views, they believe that an act is
moral or immoral only once the consequences are analysed. In Fletcher's view, an act is moral if the
agape love produced is for the majority affected. Therefore, an abortion would be moral in such a
A problem arises for those who believe abortion is wrong when the mother's life is in danger if
the pregnancy continues or if the birth is carried out. For example, an ectopic pregnancy (when the
foetus develops outside the womb) kills both the mother and the father. A cardiac condition can also
place the mother in real danger. Judith Thompson said that it's ok to abort because it's an act of self
defence and so the intent is right. However, the foetus is totally innocent and has done nothing to harm
the mother. Thompson though uses a realistic approach by saying that it cannot be seriously suggested
that a person must be stopped from saving their own life for the life of another. The mother should not
have to sit and wait for death. Furthermore, she uses the example of the burning building a person
may put their life at risk in order to save a child in a burning building. But once the fire is too bad, the
person would make a calculated decision not to risk further life. Therefore it cannot be your duty to
risk your life.
Catholics would also claim that in these situations, abortion is the right course of action. They
would take the double effect principle. The intent is good because you're trying to save the life of the
mother, the moral or nonmoral act is then carried out (removing the fallopian tube) giving two
outcomes. The first is the unintended negative effect of the baby dying and the intended good effect is
the mother surviving. Hence meaning there is proportionally strong reasons for allowing the evil effect.
Protestants would also allow abortion to be carried out by using the lesser of two evils
approach. The principle is that "Life of existing sacred human takes precedence". Though the act is
still strictly bad, the effects on others around would be much greater if the mother dies than if the
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Fletcher's view is very similar to this. He would say that abortion is the moral
act in this instance because the most love to the majority would be produced if an abortion takes place.
(More people would be negatively affected if the mother dies.)
Another issue which crops up with abortion is whether it's right to abort a foetus because they
are to be severally handicapped.…read more