RE Matters of Life and Death - Abortion

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  • Created by: Natasha
  • Created on: 20-01-13 15:47


Definition: The premature expulsion of the foetus from the womb” before pregnancy reaches full term (40 wks).

Two forms:

1.   Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion: this happens naturally. Up to 50% of conceptions end this way, usually in the first few months, often without the mother knowing she was pregnant.

2.   Procured abortion: deliberately ending the pregnancy; an operation to remove the foetus from the womb.

Controversial: Most abortions are in the early stages of pregnancy before it is obvious she is pregnant. It is also safer. Christians differ in their attitude to the law. RC and others believe the law is wrong because all foetuses’ are human from conception. Other Christians feel the law is about right. Others think it should be reduced to a time when the baby definitely cannot feel pain.
Abortion issue generally depends on whether you think a foetus is a human being or not. Some Christians believe a foetus is human from conception, with the same rights and value to God as a child who has already been born. Therefore, abortion is murder. Others believe the foetus is not yet a person, so it’s life is not sacred. It is a potential person, but not a person yet. Therefore, abortion might be justified.

Abortion and the law
Before 1967, abortion was illegal in the UK. However, backstreet abortions were done, often ending in permanent injury or death. The 1967 Abortion Act was introduced to provide a safe alternative. It was amended in 1990.

The law only allows abortion if…..

·         2 registered doctors examine the woman and agree to the abortion.

·         Her mental or physical health is at risk if she goes through with the pregnancy.

·         Existing children may suffer if another baby arrives.

Although the law was intended to limit abortion to ‘serious’ cases, Britain has effectively got ‘abortion on demand’. Doctors in abortion clinics will allow women to have an abortion under any circumstances if that is their choice, and the conditions above are vague enough to allow this to happen.

Abortions must be done before “viability”, when a baby can live on it outside its mother’s womb:

·         1967 - 28 weeks

·         1990 – changed to 24 weeks

Many people, including most Christians, believe that the date of ‘viability’ should be reduced to 20 weeks, as some babies have survived from this stage. In practice, very few doctors will perform an abortion after 20 weeks except under extreme circumstances.

Abortion is allowed up to birth if the baby is mentally or physically handicapped, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Arguments for abortion (pro-choice)
Some believe a woman should have the right to choose to have an abortion, whatever the reason. She should not have to persuade two doctors that she is making the right choice. Arguments include:

·         Single mother, not in a serious relationship, may not want to bring up a baby on her own.

·         The woman’s health is at risk.



Miss KHP


Matters around life and death primarily for CCEA but can be used for many exam boards in the ethics section of the examination.

Once complete, I suggest you test yourself on here to check your progress.

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