Abortion Essay, Research Paper
What is meant by abortion?
Abortion is defined in the dictionary as,
“The expulsion of a foetus (naturally or by medical induction) from the
womb before it is able to survive independently (around 28 weeks).”
This simply means the foetus is removed by either a natural or medical procedure before the time of the natural birth would have occurred, before the foetus could support it?s own life.
Their are in fact three types of abortion. They are: Voluntary – when the mother decides to have an abortion out of choice, Therapeutic – carried out when the mother?s health is in danger and Spontaneous – when the foetus dies during the pregnancy (the same as a miscarriage).
The Abortion Act is what is used to determine whether an abortion is justified, it was passed in 1967 and then amended in 1990. Currently it states that:
1967 Abortion Act
An abortion may be performed legally if two or more doctors certify that:
1. The mental and physical health of the woman, or her existing children, will suffer if the pregnancy continues.
2. The child, if born, would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped.
As the 1967 Act, except that the time limit for when an abortion can be carried out was reduced to 24 weeks.
This Act means a pregnant woman has the right to an abortion if:
1. Upon keeping the pregnancy, and therefore having the child, the mother and/or any children she already has would be harming their physical or mental well being.
2. The foetus has been shown to have either a physical or mental disability and therefore would be born handicapped.
If two doctors both agree that the woman suffers from either of the points, then abortion is a legal option, as long as the pregnancy has not gone more than 24 weeks after conception.
A 15 yr. old girl is pregnant and has requested and abortion without her parents knowing and with no intention to do so.
The girl would be allowed an abortion even though she is too young (under 16) to give consent for the medical procedure to take place. The grounds the girl would be allowed the abortion under would be under the first section of the 1967 Act, the pregnancy if continued, would pose a risk to the mother?s own mental health.
An amniocentesis test shows that the baby has a serious deformity.
There is no doubt that an abortion would be legal in this circumstance, it falls exactly under the second section of the 1967 Act, because the baby, if born, would be either seriously physically or mentally handicapped.
The pregnancy was a result of rape.
An abortion would be permitted to the mother, because keeping the pregnancy would cause the mother?s mental health to suffer, this the first section of the 1967 Act.
The Abortion Act allows for most abortions to go ahead, as it is open to various interpretations (especially in the first section). One scenario where an abortion would not be permitted would be:
A scan has shown that the baby is female and the parents want a boy.
These would not be significant grounds for an abortion to be said to be legal. However it could be argued that it would cause the mother mental distress, but it is does not really pose a serious threat to her health. However there has been a case of a mother who had two abortions on the NHS because she didn?t like the looks of either of the fathers. This shows that the Abortion Act can be abused and interpreted in, what we presume to be, a way in which it was not intended.
What biblical teachings might be used in a discussion about abortion?
The bible is used by Pro life and Pro choice groups to ?prove? that their view is the view that God takes, because the Bible is of course the word of God. The issue of abortion is not specifically referred to in the words of the bible, so each group picks out the parts, quotes, that support their cause.
Because pro life groups believe that life begins at the moment of conception, their proof that abortion is wrong, is quotes that, state life begins at conception, people are formed in the image of God and murder is wrong.
Anti abortion groups and the Roman Catholic church state that God created each and every human, that each person was intended, their life planned, mapped out and built in the womb of the mother, before the child is delivered, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother?s womb”, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.” Psalm 139
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5, these say that God knows the soul of every foetus, and therefore proves that the fertilised egg is a human life.
They use their belief that God?s spirit lives in every person, even in an unborn child and by killing that child you are killing a part of God?s family, the quotes from the Bible they use to support the claim are;
“Don?t you realise that all of you together are in the house of God, and that the spirit of God lives among you in his house?” 1 Corinthian 3 V16 and “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27-28, these prove that each human is a part of God. These teachings are all about the Sanctity of Life, which Christians believe in, this means that life is a gift from God and each life is precious, therefore should be treated with the greatest care and it?s value should not be jeopardised or questioned in anyway. The other meaning of the sanctity of life is the next biblical teaching that some Christians would use to oppose abortion, the teaching that only God has the right to decide when a life should be taken away, as he is the one who gave that gift in the first instance and, as life begins at conception, abortion is perceived to be the taking of a human life, “?I came naked from my mother?s womb? he said ?and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away.” Job 1 V21, this supports the argument. As does the ultimate teaching, in the opposing groups eyes, this is possibly the simplest and most well known quote from the Bible, “Thou shall not kill” Ten Commandments Exodus 20 V12. This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments (rules that every man should follow), those who consider abortion to be the murder of a human life, use this to prove that God does not tolerate murder, therefor would not tolerate abortion, it is a sin.
There are of course biblical teachings that can be used to ?pardon? abortion, the main theme identified in these quotes is the fact that God forgives our sins, that no one is perfect.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1 V 9. This is one of the important quotes that the people opposed to anti – abortionists use, it states that, if the person is truly sorry for making the decision to abort the baby then God would forgive them of their sins.
They use Jesus? life as a teaching that says that abortion will be forgiven, it is how Jesus sent his life healing those in suffering and how he would not want to see someone suffer if they did not have to, therefore in the eyes of God, abortion, as a last resort, can be pardoned.
Then there are the more obscure, which are used to oppose the ?life begins at conception? belief, Genesis 2:7 God made Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth. Later, the “man became a living soul” only after God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” This would imply that Adam’s personhood started when he took his first breath and not at conception.
The Bible offers quotes and passages that can be used to support both sides of the abortion argument and because abortion is not directly pinpointed, then knowing which teachings are the correct ones, are up to the individual.
How do Christians respond to the question of abortion?
To understand the different views of certain Christians you first have to understand that the Christian faith is split into two main groups on this issue, Roman Catholics/ Church of England fundamentalists and the Church of England.
Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists hold the view that abortion is always wrong, unless the mother?s life is in serious danger. These seemly anti-abortion people are often connected with the anti-abortion group, Pro-life.
The Roman Catholic views are:
“God is the Lord of life and death – a person?s ultimate value stems from God and no
individuals can take it upon themselves in total mastery over the life of another.”
Pro Life Campaign
This means that God brought every human into their respective lives and only he has the right to take their lives away from them, no other human has the right to decide when another person should die.
“Human beings do not have the right to take the lives of others: ?Thou shall not kill.? (Fifth
Commandment).” Pro Life Campaign / Bible
The meaning of this is the same as that of the first, that no person should take the life of another, it is written in the Bible as one of the Ten Commandments.
“Human life begins at the moment of conception.” Pro Life Campaign
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.
From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the
rights of a person among which is the inviolable right of every innocent life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
“The foetus is in no real sense “part” of the mother, but is a separate human being.”
Pro Life Campaign
These mean that as soon as the egg of a female and the sperm of a male join, then what is formed (the foetus) should be conceived as a human person, as soon as the diploid number of 46 chromosomes (normal baby) is produced then the foetus becomes a part of the population and should receive the same respect and rights as a fully grown adult.
“The right of the unborn to live supersedes any right of a woman to “control her own body”.
Pro Life Campaign
This statement is a further point to the argument that the foetus has rights as a human, this states that these rights are greater than the right that every woman has to choose to keep the baby or not. They believe that abortion is a form of discrimination against the weak, as the baby is not able to be heard.
“We have been created by Almighty God in his own image and likeness. No pregnancy is
unplanned, because no baby can be conceived unless God intends the conception and has
willed that particular individual new person into existence. What has actually happened in
our society is that clever arguments have convinced those with no anchor of belief in God
to cling to, that the merciless slaughter of unborn babies is morally justifiable, and even
essential for the happiness of the individual and for the good of society.”
Catholic Truth Society.
This speech highlights the natural law argument, that the person was meant to be else he/she would not have been conceived. It is God?s will that the baby is to be born and by aborting the child the person has defied God?s intentions. It also blames society for making people believe that abortion is acceptable, that they have twisted God?s words to back up their case, and falsely claimed that abortion is the right way to go about dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.
“Abortion at whatever stage of development of the foetus, is the taking of a human life.”
This statement says that to have an abortion, no matter how far the pregnancy has advanced, means to murder a human being, they use the previous statements to support their argument.
Teachings from the Bible also are used to support the anti – abortion views, the ?thou shall not kill? Commandment has already been explained, there are many more used in arguments, such as:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother?s womb and My frame
was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.” Psalm 139
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5
The quotes from the Bible say that God was responsible for creating the person within the foetus (the soul) when it was still forming in the womb and that God already knew what the foetus would be like in every way before it was seen by anyone else. The Pro – Life group uses this to ?prove? that the foetus is a person with a soul, to back up their claims that the unborn should have human rights.
The only time that Catholic?s accept (but not necessarily agree) abortion, is if the life of the mother is in great danger, she is likely to die if the pregnancy continues. They do not however support abortion when the pregnancy is a result of a rape attack.
“Abortion should not be permitted for rape because it is wrong to punish a child for the sin
of the father.” Pro Life Campaign
The reason they give states that the child is the innocent result of a vicious attack and it should be killed because it came into the world because it?s father was evil enough to commit the attack.
However this Roman Catholic belief has not always been consistent. It wasn?t until the seventeenth century, that ?ensoulment? (the gaining of the soul) was believed to happen at the moment of conception, that Catholics have been taught that abortion is always wrong. This was taught in the oldest Christian document known, written in 70CE, it read:
“You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant
What it says, is simply that abortion is as wrong as the killing of a child (infanticide).
But St. Augustine (1st century) had declared that the soul was planted in the foetus, by God, on day 46. Thomas Aquinas (13th century) preached that the souls of humans were planted, by God, at day 90 for girls and day 40 for boys. Therefore Catholic?s had believed that, as long as abortion was carried out before the soul was present in the foetus, it was not morally wrong. Now in the present day Catholic?s believe abortion is always wrong, they feel so strongly in Scotland that they are prepared to offer financial support to the mother of a child, so that she keeps the baby and does not opt for abortion. This has been a controversial issue of late as the church have tried to persuade a 12 yr. Old girl who has found herself pregnant to keep the baby by offering money. The reasons behind the churches actions are described in The Express newspaper, October 11 1999, by Eileen Bryden, a counsellor for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (a Pro Life supporter):
“It is not an ideal situation given her age. But the girl is
pregnant and abortion is the
deliberate killing of an unborn child.
It is natural for her to go ahead with the pregnancy and
every effort to support her through
it should be welcomed. I think that Cardinal Winning, like any other groups, offers a
Once a woman is pregnant she is a mother. The decision is whether she is going to be the
mother of a living child or a dead child. That?s the bottom line.”
She defends the action of the church by saying that they are trying to help her be able to make the right decision. The money is given because she could not afford a child and the extra income would mean she could opt to keep the baby, instead of committing murder by having the baby aborted.
Some of the other Christian churches, such as some Church of England Christians, perceive abortion to be wrong, but to be the best way out of a bad situation.
“The Church of England believes that all human life, including life developing in the womb,
is to be protected.” Church of England Report
This is a very similar statement to that of the Catholic church, they also see the foetus as a life, but unlike the Roman Catholic view that it is a complete person they see it as a developing one.
“It also recognises that there are situations in which abortion is justified (namely the risk of
a defective or deformed child and in cases of incest and rape.” Church of England
This is where the differences between the two churches (both under the religion of Christianity) begin to differ in opinion. The majority of Roman Catholic?s believe that abortion is always wrong but here, the Church of England is said to believe that there are, in fact, cases where abortion should be available as an option. The Church of England agree with the second section of the Abortion Act 1967, where abortion is justified when the child is known to have serious mental or physical disabilities. They also agree that it is permitted if the pregnancy has come about because the mother was a victim of either incest or had been raped.
There are no references in the bible that states whether abortion is right or wrong, but there are examples of teachings that could be used to explain why God would excuse abortion, the life of Jesus is a good example of what people would use. Jesus was portrayed as a person who cared about everyone, no matter what problems they had, whether it was financial, emotional or physical.
He helped many suffering disabled people and saw the poverty that others lived in. He would have wanted the suffering of these people to stop. From this it can be concluded that the suffering could have been prevented, if the parents had known that this was the kind of life that the foetus inside the mother was likely to lead, that it?s disability would mean they would not have a good quality of life and therefore could have prevented the child from unnecessary agony.
Jesus throughout his life was forgiving of others, he always emphasised that if you were truly sorry for something that you had done, then God would forgive you, as no one is perfect.
“God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from
all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
This famous saying and quote from the Bible back up this theory that God will forgive if the sinner repents. Therefore if a woman felt that abortion was the best option for her and was sorry for the fact she had to take this action, then God would pardon the sin.
“Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”
The Golden Rule is also used, because no person would want to brought into this world if they knew that they were unwanted, or were the cause of someone?s pain, therefore the unwanted foetus would not want to be born if they were faced with the decision, so abortion would be allowed.
“Some members of the Church, however, would limit abortions only to life-threatening
situations while others would permit them for emotional or social economic reasons.”
It is apparent from this quote that there is a difference of opinion within the Church of England as well as between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic views. Many believe that abortions are permitted if it would cause the mother/ child, great emotional or social problems, whilst others in the same section of the church would say that the only circumstance for allowing abortion is when the mother?s life is in danger (very similar to the Roman Catholic opinion).
The Free Churches (Baptist, Methodist and Evangelical) believe that abortion should be left for the mother to decide whether it is the right thing to do. The Methodist Church especially has been publicly known for expressing their views that abortion is acceptable under the first section of the Abortion Act, if the birth would threaten either the mother?s or existing children?s mental or physical health. .
To conclude, The Roman Catholic Church is extremely Pro Life (anti abortion) whereas the Church of England could be described as being moderately Pro Choice (meaning abortion is a choice that should be available when faced with certain situations). The Free Churches take a greater Pro Choice approach to the controversial issue.
“Abortion is never justified” Do you agree?
Abortion is a very controversial issue, it is an issue that people feel strongly about, so much so that some of them devote a lot of their time to protesting for the side of the argument that they happen to agree with.
To say that Abortion is never justified is, in my mind, a completely absurd consumption to make. If it was the view of the law, then abortion would become illegal. I believe that every woman who finds herself carrying an unwanted child, should have every possible option open to her. She should have the right to decide herself and not be forced to take a course of action that is not what she wants, just because the law and attitude of society thinks otherwise.
The life of the mother is paramount, if this is in serious danger, then it should be preserved at the cost of the foetus. The mother would know every detail about the event, the baby would not know a thing, the proof of this is obvious really, no one can remember any pain they felt living in the womb, so what is to say that the foetus involved would.
Every pregnant woman?s life is her own and she should be able to put her body, career and future wellbeing first, if that would be jeopardised by the birth of the baby, then abortion would, in my mind, be justified. There can be no argument about her humanity and the right she has to live her life the way she desires, so why should she suffer because of a mistake that has resulted in the beginning of the forming of a human, therefore abortion is not the ?slaughter of a human life? as some would see it, but the ending of a developing one.
That is the main issue that people cannot decide over, when the life actually begins?
I believe that the foetus is a life from the moment of conception, because it is at that moment that a reaction is triggered that results in the formation of a human life. But this life is only a simple life, the same as the life of an amoeba (or similar) it is a collection of cells that, at the beginning of the pregnancy hold little resemblance to a living person, the point at which I think the life can be considered human, is when brain signals can be detected and the foetus acts like a new born child, being very active, this occurs around 18 weeks. Until this point I do not see abortion to be the taking of a human life, however after 18 weeks abortion, unless there is a great danger to the mother?s life, is not, in my mind, justified.
Believing all abortions are not justified means believing that bringing unwanted children into the world is acceptable, this could be described as the ultimate in child abuse, I would have not wanted to come into this world knowing that I was unwanted, if I had been then I would probably resent the society/law that had meant it happened. Think of the child?s confusion and horror if they discovered that they were either ?a mistake?, or that their birth had resulted in the death/illness of their mother.
If a woman has received and discussed information about all her options, but still believes abortion is the right course of action, then her wish should be respected, she should be seen as a responsible person who knows what is best for her, not told that she has no respect for life, as her reasons would be for the conservation of her own life and the probable life of the child if it was born.
How can abortion not be justified when both the mother and baby are likely to die if the pregnancy is not terminated? That is the taking of two lives, not one.
The rights of the mother exceed the rights of the unborn child, because she has spent (however many years) getting to wherever she has got, therefore why should her life be taken away because of one mistake she has made, by something that does not know who she is or what her situation may be. By saying that the rights of the unborn child are greater, is saying that the creator of the life is inferior to the life itself and that makes no sense whatsoever.
Roman Catholic?s would disagree with most of my beliefs, they believe that abortion is always murder and wrong, unless the mother is likely to die. They believe that abortion is not justified because it is the destruction of one of God?s creations, the murder of a human which God had given life to. They believe abortion is as bad as infanticide (the killing of a child), because of their belief that life begins at conception and every foetus is a human life with a soul and purpose and should have equal rights to that of an adult. They believe in the sanctity of life, that life is a gift from God and only he has the right to decide when each life is over, because it was he who created it, also that abortion is society?s easy way out and rather than deal with a problem they are choosing to eliminate it, at the cost of a life. Roman Catholic?s say that every child born is wanted, if not by the mother, then by people who would love to have the opportunity of having a child, by adoption.
People of the Free Churches do, however, believe that, although abortion is wrong, that sometimes under certain conditions, it is the best solution to an overall bad situation, they say that if there is a valid reason for the abortion, (mothers life endangered, serious deformity in child etc.) that God would be willing to forgive the person, if that person was truly sorry that it was the only action that they felt they could take. They believe this because of the life of Jesus, how he saw suffering and tried to heal the pain, God would therefore not want the person to suffer unduly, abortion would relieve this pain.
I do not think that people will ever see eye to eye on this controversial issue, there will always be those who believe in choice and those who believe in life, the only way people can decide, is to listen to each side of the argument and make up their own minds.
Sources used in the gathering of information.
? Contemporary Moral Issues New Edition – Jenkins
? Introducing Moral Issues
? Religion & Ethics
? Various Websites: www.bbc.co.uk / www.abortionfacts.com / www.re-xs.uscm.ac.uk
? Pro Life campaign material
? Church of England Reports
? Christianity in Today?s World – Lynch
? Christianity and Social Issues – Keane
? Ethics and Religion – Jenkins
? One World, Many Issues – Williams
? Daily Express 11/10/99
? BBC ?Matters of Belief – Abortion?, ? Abortion – Whose Choice??, ?Education and Choice? and ?Doctor?s Dilemma? TV programmes.