Outline and explain key religious and ethical theories for abortion essay

Outline and explain key religious and ethical theories for abortion essay

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1. Outline and explain key religious and ethical principles for abortion.
Once the status of the embryo has been decided, defining if it can be given full human rights, (E.G
Roman Catholics state that this is conception), aborting the embryo may be seen as right for some if
we adopt the QUALITY OF LIFE PRINCIPLE. A utilitarianism philosopher called Peter Singer strongly
takes this view; he strongly argues that if the quality of life of the foetus is poor, eg seriously
handicapped, then abortion is morally justifiable. The quality of the life for the individual or in
relation to society is what's important here. For example, a baby with down syndrome is clearly
going to have a poor quality of life. And this can affect the parents, more stress is put on them, and
arguments are easily triggered. Another utilitarian called Mill takes this point of view too, he looks
at the ability to experience higher pleasures. A foetus which is seriously handicapped will be unable
to experience such pleasure of the mind and so abortion of this foetus ma be moral.
Liberal Protestant Joseph Fletcher might see aborting a handicapped foetus as moral as he looks to
his Situation Ethics, where he seeks to MAXIMISE LOVING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE MAJORITY OF
PEOPLE AFFECTED. He doesn't believe in the sanctity of life principle, but quality of life instead. By
aborting the foetus more love may be produced as it reduces the stress on the mother. Although
life is an intrinsic good for Fletcher, it may be sacrificed here to benefit love.
Liberal Protestants may also support abortion here on the grounds of COMPASSION, MERCY AND
LOVE. Jesus says "Be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful!" Having mercy on the foetus and
mother can be more important and so they may regard it as the "lesser of two evils."
If there is a clash between the right's of the mother, and the right's of the foetus then some argue
that there are situations where abortion is justifiable. For example, if the mother is having an
ectopic pregnancy (where the foetus grows outside the womb and both the mother and the foetus
will die) then abortion might be the right course of action. Roman Catholics could use the PRINCIPLE
OF DOUBLE EFFECT from Natural Law. There is right intent, the primary act is moral (or rather
non-moral ­ simply removing the fallopian tube), the death of the baby is an unintended side effect
of the mother's life being saved and the life of the mother is a sufficient outcome as a result of the
baby's death. Abortion may therefore be acceptable. However Roman Catholics would not view
this as abortion, but more saving the mother's life.
In the same situation, liberal protestants would certainly regard this as the "LESSER OF TWO EVILS"
to save the mother's life by using the principle "LIFE OF EXISTING SACRED HUMAN TAKES
Again, in the ectopic pregnancy situation, Judis Jarvis Thompson regards the foetus as an
"aggresson" and abortion is simply "SELF DEFENCE". She uses an example of a baby trapped in a
burning building, when the fire is too bad, the mother would make a calculated decision not to enter
the building to save her baby as it is too dangerous.
Also, in some cases the status of the unborn child may also be used to justify the abortion. For
example, Mary Anne Warren argues the "birth and not some earlier point, marks the beginning of
personhood." Using this as the starting point, it would be ok to have an abortion for the good of the


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