Abortion and IVF
- The Sanctity of Life
- The Right to Life
- The Right to a Child
- Case Studies
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- Abortion- The termination of a pregnancy by artificial means.
- Foetus- An organism in the womb from nine weeks until birth.
- Embryo- The developing bundle of cells in the womb up to eight weeks’ gestation.
- Ensoulment- The moment when the soul enters the body in traditional The Church now believes that life begins at conception.
- Consciousness- Awareness of self as an independent being feel pain/ pleasure
- Personhood- Definition of a human being as a person — having consciousness, self-awareness, ability to reason and self-sufficiency.
- Viability- Where a foetus is considered capable of sustaining its own life, given the necessary care.
- AI (artificial insemination)- The injection of sperm into a woman.
- IVF (in- vitro fertilisation)- The procedure by which sperm and eggs from a couple are fertilised in a laboratory dish (in vitro= in glass)
- Test-tube babies- When an egg and sperm is fertilised in test tube
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Sanctity of Life
- Many religions share the idea that life is sacred and should not be taken\wasted under any circumstance. Such beliefs are the foundation behind key Bible teachings, like Ex 20:13 (You shall not murder). It’s a principle that society can certainly agree with. But the advancement of medical technology and women’s rights now make it easy for a woman to terminate her pregnancy up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy (The Human Fertilization & Embryology Act of 1991 concluded that this was when the foetus was viable – had the ability to live outside the womb).
- Much of the debate around abortion revolves around the question ‘when is abortion taking a life?’ – The answer to this question largely depends on your definition of ‘personhood’ – when the foetus stops being a developing bundle of cells and starts being a human.
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- Religious organizations such as the Catholic Church believe that life begins at conception (when the sperm fuses with the egg to create all the genetic material necessary for a baby). As recently as May 13, Pope Benedict XVI called abortion one of the most “insidious and dangerous threats” Facing the world today.
- Mary Anne Warren says “Birth marks the beginning of the true moral statue” but the fact remains that premature infants from 24 weeks have a 1 in 4 chance of survival.
- Many factors have been suggested as criteria for personhood. For example, being capable of rational thought\consciousness\self-awareness. But it could be argued that these qualities develop over time, they are not there even at birth.
- On the other hand, some (such as the Roman Catholic church) view personhood as simply ‘having full genetic makeup’ – but often human tissue is grown in laboratories for experiments
- Aristotle put personhood at ‘the quickening’ or the point at which the foetus starts to move in the womb (40 days for boys, 90 days for girls).
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The Right to Life
- There are generally two schools of thought when talking about right to life.
- Pro-life advocates think that the rights of the developing baby overrule the rights of the mother, whereas Pro-choice advocates think that the rights of the mother are more important.
- Most scholars and medical professionals agree that in the case of a pregnancy that threatens the mother’s life (such as an ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo grows inside the fallopian tubes), she should take priority. Aquinas’ Double Effect allows for this, as it the foetus has to be removed to save the mother, and thus it is not technically classed as an abortion.
- Philosopher Mary Anne Warren argues that historically, women have suffered by being forced to bear children, often frequently dying from pregnancy-related problems or unsafe backstreet abortions. She believes that legal abortion is necessary to maintain the mother’s right to life.
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The Right to a Child
- Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that men\women of full age have the right to marry and found a family, it is ambiguous as to whether this extends to the right to have children.
- The Catholic view is that God alone is the lord of life and death, if you are unable to have a child you should not interfere as doing so would be going against God.
- Many religions hold a similar stance to this – but the want of a child is a basic human instinct and for some it can be difficult to resist.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology such as IVF allows for couples who would have been thought of as infertile to have children
- Some object to this practice for the reasons mentioned on the previous page. Peter Singer argues that up to 14 days, an embryo could divide into multiple people, which calls into question whether it should be defined as a ‘person’ or not.
- Many scholars argue that it’s simply too difficult to draw a definite line between baby and embryo
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