Religion and Early Life

Some revision notes about abortion from the 'AQA GCSE Religious Studies B: Religion and Life Issues' textbook.

If you are taking the AQA GCSE Religious Studies exam in the next few years, I would suggest buying this textbook since it has lots of information, veiwpoints, explanations, and quotes. It also includes summaries, definitions, practice questions, and activities, whcih is very good for revision and very easy to understand.

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The Miracle of Life

Most people consider it amazing that a tiny sperm can join with an egg and provide all the information needed to develop into a unique human being. When a couple who have been trying to have children finally conceive, they truly consider it a miracle of life. It is a miracle that helps the human race to continue.

Religions often mark the birth of a new baby with a ceremony to show how thankful people are for the gift of new life. Religious people do not see children as a 'right' or something they deserve; rather they see them as a blessing, something wonderful that is given to them by a loving God.

All religions teach that life is special and precious. This idea is know as the sanctity of life. Christians, Jews and Muslims believe that life is sacred or holy because it comes from God. God created life and gave us the natural means to reporduce. As life is God-given and precious, it should be valued and cherished, not destroyed. God gave life, and only God has the right to take life away.

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When does life begin?

Conception: when sperm meets egg

Viable: the point at which a foetus could survive if it were to be born

There are several other views on when a foetus becomes a separate person:

  • At conception, at the moment when the sperm unites with the ovum (egg). This is when the new being's DNA is fixed, with all the information needed to make a unique individual.
  • At the development of the back bone or spinal column, which houses the nervous system. this happens in about the third week of pregnancy.
  • When the heart starts beating in about the fourth week of pregnancy.
  • When the foetus is viable, meaning it could survive outside the womb if bron prematurely. It is rare for babies weighing under 500g or who are under 22 weeks old to survive.
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When does life begin? Religious views

Buddhists believe that life begins even before conception because all living things are caught up in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Therefore there is no point in time when life 'begins'.

Hindus and Sikhs believe life begins at conception, when something unique comes into being. So do some Jews and some Christians, particularly Roman Catholics. They speak of the embryo (a foetus before eight weeks) as a person, or a potential person, and therefore has rights.

Others, including many Jews, believe the foetus in becoming a person, but is not legally a person until it is born. A Jewish teaching is that the soul becomes present in a person when they leave their mother's wommb.

Muslims believe that there is potential life from the moment of conception, but a foetus receives a soul after 120 days. This is therefore when human life really starts.

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