Religious Studies B: Religion and early life

HideShow resource information

The miracle of Life

Miracle of life: the idea that life is wonderful, amazing or special.

Blessing: the idea that God has favoured a couple with a child.

Many people take fertility for granted. One quarter of couples have difficulty starting families, so fertility is not totally under our control.

Religions often mark the birth of a new baby with a ceremony to show how thankful people are for the gif of new life. Religious people see children as a blessing. 

Buddhists do not believe in God, they do not see children as a gift, but still regard all human beings as precious.

All religions teach that life is special and precious. Christians and Muslims believe that life is sacred or holy because it comes from God. As life is God-given, it should be cherished and not destroyed. Buddhists believe life should be valued as every person deserves a chance to do good and build up good karma.

1 of 14

When does life begin?

Once a person is alive they have human rights. These include the right to life, which means that killing them is unlawful. There are several views on when a foetus becomes a seperate person:

- At conception (when sperm meets egg)

- At the development of the backbone or spinal column. This happens on the third week of pregnancy.

- When the heart starts beating, In the fourth week of pregnancy.

- When the foetus is viable (the point at which a foetus could survive if it were to be born. At 22 weeks.

Buddhists believe that life begins before conception because all living things are caught up in the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Some Roman Catholics believe life begins at conception. Muslims believe that there is potential life from the moment of conception, but a foetus recieves a soul after 120 days.

2 of 14

Quality of Life

Quality of life: a measure of fulfilment. It can mean both physical and mental wellbeing of the child and also the family circumstances into which it is born.

Severe disability: babied born with severe mental or physical disabilities may live a life of suffereing and pain. They may not be able to enjoy a full life or communicate with others.

An unwanted child: Some unplanned pregnancy may cause resentment in a woman whose circumstances are not suitable for motherhood. She may not be able to give the baby the love and care it deserves. Occasionally a baby may be conceived through Rape.

Poverty: some people cannot afford a child.The baby may suffer from neglect because its parents may not have time for it or are unable to provide emotional support.

The child's disability: How severe would a disability have to be to be a serious threat to quality of life? Many disabled people live happy and productive lives.

3 of 14

Abortion and the law

Abortion: the deliberate termination (ending) of a pregnancy, usually before the foetus is 24 weeks and viable.

Before 1967 abortion was illegal in the whole of the UK so women had to turn to unqualified people who were willing to break the law. In 1990 abortion is allowed if two doctors agree that one of the following conditions applies:

- the woman might die unless the pregnancy is ended or there is a risk to the womans physical or mental health.

- there is a risk of the baby being born severely physically or mentally disabled

- there is a risk to the physical or mental health of her existing children

people think that the time should be limited to abort children to as low as 12 weeks from 24 weeks. There is no time limit if the mothers life is in danger. In an emergancy a second doctor is not needed. Abortion is still ilegal in Northern Ireland except when a doctor acts to save the mothers life.

4 of 14

Some other considerations of abortion

- most abortions are carried out early on the grounds of risk to the mother's mental health.

- some abortions are carried out to reduce the number of foetuses in multiple births where the woman has received fertility treatment. This is to reduce risk ti the remaining babies. 

- the law does consider the rights of the father (only those of the foetus), the mother and her existing children.

- doctors and nurses who disagree with abortion do not have to help carry them out.

- each year around 185,000 abortions take place.

- fewer than 200 a year take place after 24 weeks.

5 of 14


people who support the rights of the unborn child say that it has a life of some sort, dispite arguments about when that life begins. 

Rights of the mother: some people think it is up to the mother to decide whether to abort or not.. The foetus is her body and it is her health, her life and her freedom that will be affected. she must have the final say.

Right to equality of opportunity: every child should be wanted and every mother should be willing. supporters of abortion says that abortion gives mothers equal opportunities. they believe that know one knows better than the woman concerned what choices she should make in her life.

however, some supporters of women's rights oppose abortion. they think that women should not be pushed into abortion because of poverty.

Fathers rights: they may feel left out in debates. they do not have the final say.

6 of 14

arguments for abortion

pro-choice: in favour of a woman's right to choose an abortion. 

- life does not really start until the baby is born, or at the earliest when the foetus is viable. the risk to the mother's health outweighs the rights of the baby.the womans circumstances should be considered, eg. **** victims. adoption may be put forward as an alternative to abortion, but it is not emotionally easy for a mother to give up a baby.

- if the law changes to forbid abortion, dangerous illegal abortions will take place.

- it is cruel to bring a severely physically or mentally handicapped child into the world

- the world already has too many people, why bring unwanted children into it?

abortion rights is a national campaign that defends safe, legal abortion and opposes any lowering of the 24-week time limit. it wants abortion to be legal so that it is immediately available.

7 of 14

arguments against abortion

pro-life: opposed to abortion; in favour of the life of the foetus.

- some people think that medical evidence supports their views that the unborn child is seperate human being with feelings and intellegence from conception. therefore abortion is murder.

- depression and guilt may follow if abortion is carried out. disabled people can enjoy happy, fulfilled life, and would chose life over termination. unwanted children can be adopted

- united nations declaration of the rights of the child states that children need to be protected both before and after birth.; each person is unique and has something to offer in life. abortion can be used selfishly to avoid responsibilities.

the society for the protection of unborn children argues against abortion. it believes abortion should only be used when the mothers life is in danger.

8 of 14

Religious beliefs: Christianity and Islam


they all believe in the sanctity of life. Children are created in the image of God and are a gift from him. they believe that life begins at conception. they believe that abortion is murder and breaks the commandment 'you shall not murder'. God gives everyone a purpose in life. Abortion goes against his plans. However some believe that under some circumstances abortion may be performed.


Muslims believe that all human life is precious, a sacred life from Allah. Anyone who carries out an abortion will suffer in the next life. Many muslims believe that life begins at the moment of conception and so abortion is murder. Other muslimss say that the foetus is ensouled at 120days, it is then regarded as a person, before that the women has more rights than the foetus.

9 of 14

Religious beliefs: Buddhism

they believe that life is a continuous cyle of birth, death and rebirth until nibbana is reached. When conception occurs life has already begun, so abortion is murder, this goes against the first precept of 'I will not harm any living thing'.

Tibetan Buddhists say that it is rare to be reborn in a human form so to end it wates all the previous lives spent trying to gain engightenment.

Each case should be decided on its merits and wise or skillful actions taken. If the motive is selfless compassion for others, the taking of a life is balanced by good intention.

10 of 14

Applying religious teachings to real-life situatio


most Buddhists oppose abortion, but some agree with Dalai Lama that individuals' situations should be taken into account. If a mother could die, the foetus would probably be lost. Abortion may be in the baby's best interest if it will be born severely disabled. Some Japanese Buddhists make offerings and dedicate statues to Bodhisattva Jizosana to lessen their feelings of guilt if they have had an abortion.


they agree abortion is wrong, but agree that it should be allowed in some cases. Some Roman Catholics and Christians totally oppose abortion as they say that life has equal value so abortion for severe disability is wrong. It is not up to us to judge. In the case of **** why should the baby have to suffer for the sins of its father. Other christians believe that abortion is justifiied if it is to save a mothers life or a case of ****. Abortions after 24 weeks should only occur if the baby will die soon after birth. Before 24 weeks most accept abortion for a severly disabled child if the mother felt it was in the child's best interest.

11 of 14

Applying religious teachings to real-life situatio


Although abortion is forbidden, it is allowed at any to save the mother's life as the lesser of tge two evils. Some scholars think it is wrong, but should not always be punished. Scholars disagree about when consoulement takes place. Some say at conception. Some scholars allow abortion in case of **** or incest. Others argue that the right to life does not depend on the cause of the pregnancy.

12 of 14

Alternatives to abortion

Keep the baby: Now the social shame of being an unwed mother is not so strong. Single mothers recieve help with housing and social security benefits. The father is legally required to pay a contribution to the child's support, and a young woman may recieve help from her own family.

Adoption: is the legal process where a person is taken into the famnily as a son or daughter. Some adoptions are done because some people cannot have children. The law requires the parents' circumstances to be fully investigated to check they can give the baby love and care it needs. Adopted children are entitled to their birth certificates and adoption records at 18yrs and are allowed to find out about their birth parents.

Religious views: most religions follow adoption laws. \some religions restrict adoptions to children of the same religion. Muslims believe blood ties are important, if a muslim raises a child who is not their own, they do not adopt the child, it remains a member of its origional family, even if it is brought up with all the love and care of a natural son or daughter. This is more like fostering.

13 of 14


the taking of a child froma different family into a family home and bringing them up with the rest of the new family.

Fostering is when a mother places her chilf in tempary foster care until she is in a position to look after her child herself. Foster parents are paid by the government to look after a child within thier own family.

14 of 14



This is a brilliant resource but why has '****' been starred rather than typed?

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Life and death resources »