Abortion: Sanctity of life

  • Created by: Abena
  • Created on: 09-05-13 12:48


  • What is Abortion? Abortion is 'the induced termination of a pregnancy to destroy the foetus
  • Abortion debate is centred around the right to life of the foetus (strong sanctity of life/pro-life) and the right of a woman to choose whether or not she would have the child (weak sanctity of life/pro-choice)
    • Central to this debate > when does human life begin? Should what is growing be regarded as an individual?
    • Once you have a human individual should he/she be protected by the law (just like a bewborn baby even though it is still dependant upon the mother)

When does a developing embryo become independant? 

  • in the UK 1967 Abortion Act allowed abortion up to 28 weeks gestation with the approval of 2 doctors - If continuing the pregnancy affected the mental or physical health of the mother or presented a threat to her life + if the child was at risk of being born severly handicapped.
  • Prior to the 1967 Abortion Act, abortion was illegal
  • The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came into force in 1991 - reduced the limit to 24 weeks gestation
  • except if a mothers life or health was in danger > or if the foetus were at risk of being severly handicapped
  • This change came about following research which discovered that babies born from 24 weeks had a possiblity of survival
  • Thus the idea behind these laws is that whatever the reason for an abortion, a foetus should be given legal protection if it is possible for it to survive outside of the womb
  • (Hippocratic Oath written in 5th Century BCE - basis for doctor's ethics - specifically AGAINST abortion) 
  • If we continue to follow this principle then with advancing technology the legality of abortion will be progressively reduced

Abortion raises some important moral questions:

  • What is a person?
  • Is all human lfe intrinsically valuable/sacred?
  • Is all intentional killing always wrong
  • Is it always a duty to preserve innocent life?
  • When does life begin?

When does life begin?

  • The possbile answers to this are: at conception, some time after conception, at birth - the answer is vital as once you have decided this is a human being, that human being must have rights and protection under the law
    • at conception - (Catholic church teaching) the moment the genetic material of both parents mix and form a biologically distinct entity - 'the foetus is a human person from the moment of conception / the life of a newborn is a sacred as that of the mother' - (Pope Pius XI) Casti Connubi,


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