Abortion revision cards. Information for topic, including right to life, personhood, and QOL/SOL

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Key Terms

Abortion - The deliberate termination of a pregnancy

Foetus - A human baby pre 8 weeks

Embryo - A human baby post 8 weeks, before organs have developed

Viability - The point where which a foetus can survive outside the womb. 24 weeks UK

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UK 1967 Abortion Act

Set limit at 28 weeks

Abortion allowed if :

- Caused suffering, physically or mentally to mother or existing children

- The child would be severely handicapped

- 2 Doctors were in agreement

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UK - 1990 Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act H

Changed limit to 24 weeks

Abortion allowed if :

- Mothers life is in danger

- It cane be proven the child will be severely handicapped

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P1 - A foetus is an innocent person

P2 - It is morally wrong to kill and innocent person

Conc - IT is morally wrong to kill (abort) a foetus


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Mary Anne Warren's criteria for personhood

- Conscious ability to feel pain

- Developed capacity for reasoning

- Self motivated activity

- Capacity to communicate

- Self awareness

H/e a foetus has the potential to fulfil these characteristics

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- Genetic information is present

- It has the potential to develop into a human being

- Pope Pius IX - a foetus is a human at conception, to kill a foetus is murder

- This is the view of many Pro-Life Catholics


- Fertilised eggs and humans are too different

- JJT argues for continuous development, but there is a cut off point. Acorn theory ...

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Aristotle claimed a foetus can be classed as a person, depended on quickening

Quickening - When a mother feels the foetus move inside her

According to Aristotle this is 40 days for boys and 90 days for girls

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Primitive Streak

Primitive Streak - The first signs of a pregnancy, usually 14 days after conception. It shows how many individuals will form in the womb and also which parts of the tissue will be embryo and which will form the placenta. This is when the embryo's nervous system will begin to form.

H/E this does not show any clear embryo forming

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Consciousness and Brain activity

Consciousness - When the foetus is awake, aware and sensitive to its surroundings

Brain activity

Spasmodic activity - 54 days

Continuous activity - 32 weeks

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Viability - The point where which a foetus can survive outside the womb. 24 weeks UK


- This is reducing due to advances in medicine and the child is still dependant on medical assistance to keep it alive.

- Also, children born full term are sometimes not able to survive on their own.

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Who has rights?

Mother ?

- Right to privacy?

- Right to ownership of own body?

- Right to self determination? (deciding own future)


- Right to decision for own child?

- Right to equality?


- Right to life, development and equality?

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Mothers Rights

- Court will always rule in favour of the mother

- A woman has the right to her own body. Men do not carry the child, therefore it is more her decision. Shouldn't be forced into doing anything. Free will...

- If abortion wasn't allowed, other illegal methods would be used, which could put her life in danger (back street abortions)

- Rights of the mother outweigh the rights of the foetus. She is protected by law, where as a foetus is only protected post 5 months.

- In a medical emergency, the mothers life is always higher prioritised, so shouldn't this be the case at all times

- If you give the father equal rights to the mother, you may as well give the foetus equal rights.

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Fathers Rights

- Legally the father has no rights, but morally should he have a say in the decision made?

- Some input into the decision but not as much as the mother?

- Mothers should take the fathers input, whilst making their decision

- Father should understand the mothers perpective

- The view and decision made depends on the situation

  • Will the mother be a single parent?
  • Will the child be disabled, and mother unable to cope?
  • Will the parents bring the child up in an unhappy relationship?
  • Is the decision a practical one?

- Mother should inform the father of her decision - O/A father is in a lose/lose situation. - If he includes himself, he is accused of meddling - If he stays out and lets the mother make the decision he is accused of being uncaring/distant

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Foetus' Rights

Foetus has no rights

Foetus has some rights

Foetus has equal rights

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Foetus has no rights

- Foetus is only a potential human, therefore only has potential rights

- Will become human, so will have rights then, but is not fully developed, so undeveloped rights

- Philosophers argue that with rights come responsibilities

- A foetus could not carry out its responsibilities so cant have rights

- A foetus cant communicate and wouldn't recognise its rights if it had any

- A foetus can not survive without its mother, so it is only there as she chooses to keep it

- If a foetus is part of the mother, her rights are absolute


- this would mean there would be nothing wrong in having an abortion for a flat stomach

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Foetus has some rights

- Foetus is potentially human

- Therefore should be treated as human as far as possible

- Rights vary, depending on the situation

- i.e. if the woman was ***** her rights are absolute

- h/e if the woman merely wants a flat stomach, the foetus has more rights in this situation


- Does this affect the fathers rights?

- Hard to distinguish what rights it has and when it has them

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Foetus has all rights

- If the foetus is a person, it should have all the rights of a person

- Should have the right to develop, be protected and live

- We are all equal in the eyes of God, and only God can take away life

- People are always developing, when is there a cut of point for when they get rights. They deserve rights from the start.


- If something has rights, it has responsibilities

- If it has rights, mother must recognise them and that they are equal to hers

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The Violinist Theory

- Judith Jarvis Thompson uses the violinist example to justify abortion even if the foetus is classed as a person


- It only covers cases of ****, when the mother had no choice

- The violinist is not related to you, and means nothing to you

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The Principle of Double Effect

4 Conditions must be met:

  • The action must be either morally good or at least morally neutral
  • The bad consequences must not be intended
  • The good consequences can not be the direct casual result of the bad consequences
  • The good consequences must be proportionate to the bad consequences

E.g the mothers life must take priority in cases such as an eptopic pregnancy

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Religious Views on Abortion

Biblical Passages

  • Genesis 2:7 - The Lord God formed man from the dust off the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life
  • Jeremiah 1:5 - Before i formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born i set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations
  • Exodus 21:23 - You are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth
  • Corinthians 6:19-20 - Do you not know your body is a temple of the holy spirit
  • Corinthians 3:16-17 - God's spirit lives on in you. If a man destroys God's temple, God will destroy him for God's temple is sacred.
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Roman Catholic View

- Believe abortion to be murder

- Believe life begins at conception

- Didache = "You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish".

- Many Roman Catholics are pro-life

- Pope John Paul II took a very strong line on abortion, describing it as murder.

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Church of England View

- Recognises each situation is different

- Encourages individual to first think/asses the situation

- The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be - strictly limited - conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative. (General Synod)

- Still believes abortion to be morally wrong

- However accepts in some circumstances e.g ****

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Pro Life/ Pro Choice

Pro Life - Belief that abortion is morally wrong. Abortion is murder as life beings at conception. ABSOLUTIST VIEW

Pro Choice - The mother should make her own decision after counselling about whether or not to continue with the pregnancy. RELATIVIST VIEW

Sanctity of Life - All life is sacred and God given

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Sanctity of life

- All life is sacred and God given

- Human life is precious

- God has a plan for every human life

- All life deserves respect

- Humans have a duty to protect innocent lives

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Quality of life

- Human life is not valuable in itself, depends on what kind of life it is

- Based on external factors, such as desire to life and right to die

- Jerome Wernow - Being alive in the Christian sense means living in body and soul. Being 'alive' is not enough unless a person can express himself spiritually and physically.

- Peter Singer - You must chose between sanctity of life and quality of life. Quality is based on what it means to be a person

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5 Factors - Guide to measuring QOL

1. Desires - Ability to express conscious human wishes/hopes

2. Preferences - Take account of desires, but also include prefernces of others

3. Consciousness - This is what it means to be a person. Only then can they be given rights

4. Rights - Enable a person to be human

5. Autonomy - Self rule enabling one to chose own preferences


- Allows value of life to vary with quality (immanence of death, constant pain etc)

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