Abortion essay - Ethics


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Abortion ethics essay

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Abortion essay - Ethics

  1. 1. Clare Dempsey 9X2 :-) Abortion - A controversial issue “An acceptance of the practice of abortion is incompatible with Christian belief in the sanctity of life but not with the attitudes of ethical philosophers or popular politicians.” Examine and comment on this claim In this short essay, I am going to confirm different beliefs on abortion, and eventually come to a conclusion of the quotation given above. The beliefs studied, or rather, explored will be Catholic beliefs and doctrine, other branches of Christianity, non-religious (or secular) attitudes, some utilitarian views, and the views taken from the perspective of situation ethics. It is estimated that 45 to 55 million abortions take place in just one year, 87% of these take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, making the average age for abortions taking place is 9.5 weeks- it is also shown that in teenagers, the foetus is aborted at a younger age than that would be with an older woman, thought to be because of pressure in decision and the fear of parents of younger women finding out about the pregnancy. In the UK, you can have an abortion until the foetus becomes viable (could live independently) which is 24 weeks; you could therefore call it a pro-choice country, where freedom reigns. Abortion became legal in the UK in 1967, under the name of the Abortion Act. Although it may seem you could have an abortion just in saying you want one, there are four reasons you would be allowed an abortion, and two doctors must agree that at least one of these reasons is valid so that the abortion can take place; the first is that the pregnancy puts the mothers life at risk, the second being that it poses a risk to the mothers mental or physical health, the third is an additional child imposes on the rest of the family and thus causes a risk to the mothers health, and the fourth and final reason being the child will be born severely handicapped. The limitation age for abortion is not however considered if the mother’s life is in grave danger or the foetus will be severely handicapped. If the abortion needs to take place urgently, a second doctors consent isn’t needed, and for certain young mothers under the age of 16, parental consent isn’t needed- although it is encouraged to inform parents on the situation, so you can make an informed decision, but at the end of the day it is the young woman’s choice, and she may believe that no-one can effect the decision she’s already chosen to make. Some countries however do not allow abortion, such as Iraq, who uphold Muslim values on the sanctity of life, and therefore do not allow abortions ever. Some would argue that in
  2. 2. countries where abortion is thought to be immoral, and is not allowed, that it is a good thing- but abortion still takes place. It is hard to know how many illegal abortions take place, but in areas of the world where abortion is illegal, women turn to backstreet abortion clinics, this is not in any way good however, because they are often unsafe, unhygienic and extremely risky procedures and a large proportion of the women who have these unsafe abortions die from disease because the abortions weren’t sterile. Debates concerning abortion are always heated and the sanctity of life is always considered. The sanctity of life is the belief that all life is sacred, important, a gift from God, and should be protected and also respected at all times; this belief of the sanctity of life is triggered by content of the Bible, this is Genesis 1:27 “To the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” which show’s that we were all made in the image of God, therefore we shouldn’t ever even consider abortion. Another quote from the Bible shows a reason not to abort; this quote is “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16, this quote is interpreted in the way that in killing, or even disrespecting life, you’re destroying God’s temple. The concept of natural law is brought up when you talk about this debate. St Thomas Aquinas stated that a secondary precept is “Do not abort the unborn” derived from the original, primary precept “Continuation of the species through reproduction” because in having an abortion you’re not continuing what God wanted, which was thriving human life, you could also back up the secondary precept with a continuation of “To the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” which is “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”- in order to agree with the idea of the primary precepts however, you must agree that there is such a thing as subjective morality, and as Catholics do- they believe that abortion is wrong. I would now like to clarify is the genuine issue, or problem with abortion which links to when we would consider a foetus as human life. Abortion is the removal of the foetus from the mother’s womb, resulting in the termination of the pregnancy, it is at this point we have to face the age-old question, when does life begin? Catholics believe that life begins at the moment of conception, and that it is at this time when you must regard the foetus as human life, sacred and important just as any other living human. However, the differences in belief about when life begins results in the problems people have with the issue of abortion. Other Christians believe that life beings only when the foetus becomes viable, meaning that it could live independently, but you do not only have to be religious to take this view-point, as many non-religious people also take this into perspective, and accept it as the beginning of a human life. Non-religious views on the beginning of life can be either when the foetus becomes viable, or you could believe that life begins once the baby is born, and in the world, as this is when we can account that we can see it living.
  3. 3. As I briefly introduced the views of when life begins in the previous paragraph, I would now like to explain more on the Catholic beliefs on when life begins. Catholics believe that life begins at the moment of conception, and from this time, the foetus should be respected as human life, and therefore not aborted- because it would be classed as ending a human life; in other words, murder. The only time in which a Catholic would permit (or rather accept) the death of the foetus would be of natural causes (miscarriage) or under the doctrine of double effect which is in the cases of an Ectopic pregnancy, a woman should have an operation to save her life, and in it’s best efforts save the foetus, but unfortunately the foetus may die- but in order to let the foetus live the mother herself must live, and so, in this instance the rights of the mother outweigh the rights of the foetus. Catholics oppose any act that would purposefully end the life of the foetus, and Catholics also believe it is an extreme form of prejudice to abort a foetus because of mental disability, or being handicapped- once again provoking the argument of the sanctity of life, that all life is sacred and important. Evangelical Protestants vary in beliefs, some taking the pro-life, and some adopting the pro-choice beliefs- dependant on the individual. The Church of England believes, like Catholics, that life begins at conception- therefore abortion is murder and should not take place. Some Angelicans believe that life does not begin at conception, and so at certain stages of the pregnancy, abortion is in fact acceptable. Most Christian Churches take pro-life points of views because of a statement made by the Church in recent years; "In the light of our conviction that the foetus has the right to live and develop as a member of the human family, we see abortion, the termination of that life by the act of man, as a great moral evil. We do not believe that the right to life, as a right pertaining to persons, admits of no exceptions whatever; but the right of the innocent to life admits surely of few exceptions indeed." This statement does however mention “of few exceptions” meaning that some Churches did take the pro-choice beliefs, or like the Angelicans, have people on either side. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that abortion is unacceptable as they also believe that life begins at conception. They know why a woman may want an abortion, such as poverty or the mother not being able to cope with the child- and they believe that the Church should work to help these women. In some cases they do believe that abortion is almost the lesser of two evils for example when the mothers’ life is in jeopardy. Fundamentalist Churches have no particular doctrine on abortion, they generally believe that abortion is acceptable if the woman’s life is in danger, but if an abortion is performed in any circumstances other than trying to save the mothers life, is murder. They also tend to be more lenient when conception takes place
  4. 4. from rape or incest, and see abortion then as the lesser of two evils, because in most of these cases, the woman does not want to go through with the pregnancy due to either emotional trauma, or not physically being able to support the child because she obviously did not plan on conception taking place. The Methodist Church have been known to be pro-choice because they believe that in certain circumstances, abortion is acceptable, and the woman has the right to choose- but these are only when the woman is in grave danger. The reason they believe this is they class a foetus or embryo as life- but not as sacred as the life of the woman, as she is already born, and so more of a human than the foetus could, or should be considered as. In a Church conference however in 2008, they agreed that they would show more consideration for the foetus, especially once viable- and are now leaning towards pro-life. Now I will explain situation ethics, the idea developed by priest Joseph Fletcher in the 1960’s. Situation ethics is deciding the best thing to do in a situation when we feel there are no particular moral guidelines to follow. Some people would describe situation ethics as a modern day dilemma, and that maybe it makes you more confused about a situation if you already had your mind partially made up- as it often comes to two conclusions that you have to decide which one is best; it does however help you make an informed decision. Some would argue that situation ethics is immoral because it gives everyone the chance to prove everything in a positive light, which surely is not beneficial for our society. Through practicing situation ethics, you show pragmatism, the Christian goal is love, and you must try and achieve love no matter what. The second of the four working principles is relativism, you don’t have to do it perfectly- but as long as you try, and it is still to the benefit of others, you’ve succeeded, through doing this, you may have to break some rules, or go against some morals- but as long as you’re doing it in a loving way, it should reach a just, loving, acceptable conclusion. Thirdly positivism; the person making the decision does it from a positive form of Christian love, to benefit someone else, for the good of others. Finally, the last of the four working principles is personalism, what you feel is right should be good enough to making the decision because in following your conscience, Christians would believe that you’re following the moral guidelines that God gave you. Now, what view are you likely to take on abortion if you conduct your beliefs through the four working principles of situation ethics? I will explain now which view you would be likely to take by actually demonstrating the four working principles in action, with a scenario that may not be able to be followed by the books. The unfortunate scenario we will be trying to solve a positive conclusion to is that the woman is only twenty, and has been raped. She is in university- working
  5. 5. towards a better future for her, and the family she intends to create in the future, when she is ready. The first of the four working principles, being pragmatism states that we must have a path of straightforward practical thinking about the scenario, and the problems we have to deal with, or that are concerned with the scenario, rather than with theories or principles. The straight forward way to think about it is that the woman is young, and she did not at all ask for this to happen, she can’t yet physically or financially support the child, and she feels that adoption isn’t going to raise a happy child. Through the straightforward thinking, at this stage, an abortion would be acceptable, or rather, the lesser of two evils. Relativism is the second thing we have to consider, in having the abortion, maybe it’s not going to end the whole situation perfectly, but would an unwanted pregnancy end perfectly? It’s two evils, and abortion in this case is the lesser one. Thirdly, we look at positivism, the person making the decision should do so from a positive form of Christian love, and seeing that she has considered adoption, and seen it as an evil- she is indeed making this decision from a positive form of Christian love. Then finally, personalism, she feels that this would be right, as making a child live in the world not knowing if it would be in an adoption home for it’s whole childhood, is an evil in itself. And so, from conducting ourselves through situation ethics, we can conclude that it is acceptable to have this abortion. Utilitarianism is the idea that nothing is right or wrong (therefore only objective morality exists) and an action’s moral value is decided by the outcome. People describe utilitarianism by saying “the greatest good for the greatest number.” The names most associated with developing it are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. A utilitarian would ask if abortion brings about the greatest good before making a decision (and could do this through situation ethics, such as in the scenario shown in the previous paragraph). Aborting the foetus because of the mother’s life being in grave danger, not being able to financially support the child, and posing danger to the other family members may be justified. Utilitarianism disagrees that abortion is an evil act; it instead argues that the end always justifies the means. A utilitarian would generally be pro-choice. The concept of absolute rights is consistent outlawed if you follow situation ethics, because in following this- you show you don’t believe in primary precepts, or that they have no significant importance for a modern society. If the abortion is justified and will lead to the most happiness for the most people, in this instance, a utilitarian will see it as acceptable. Utilitarians and situationists don’t share the same views on abortion as Catholics, who believe that abortion is always wrong; they instead believe that sometimes it’s acceptable, although their views are quite similar to many Christian beliefs. This may be because situation ethics came from the perspective of a Christian and is acting as a new Christian ethic, or way of solving tricky problems.
  6. 6. Now I will explore the attitudes of popular politicians, these will be from the previous USA elections. I will explain the views of Barak Obama, and John McCain. Both senators where questioned on their beliefs and how they would make America, either pro-life or pro-choice. They were questioned by Pastor Rick Warren “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view” Obama answered, “Well, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade” so it seemed that Obama didn’t feel it necessary to answer that question, or he simply didn’t have an answer. When John McCain was asked the same question, he answered immediately “At the moment of conception”. Obama’s America is a pro-choice country, and this is claimed to be because a country that needs freedom, and liberty, needs choice. McCain said that if he was elected president he would continue to make it a pro-life country, where he intended to do anything he could to help women to anything but abortion, whilst still allowing the ends to justify the means. Finally, to come to a conclusion, I’ll explain my own views. I have been pro-life since I was educated on the issue of abortion, before I thought “Why does it matter?” but now I know why it matters, and I know why it is a terrible thing. I believe that abortion should be illegal, but am aware that it then flags issues like, why should a woman have to turn to an illegal, unsafe abortion? Well, she shouldn’t, but at the same time I believe that she shouldn’t have an abortion at all, but instead the Church community should help her, and all other mothers in the same situation, because as one we believe that we are all the body of Christ, so why should we protect our own and not others? I believe abortion should never be allowed and never should have been allowed, I believe there is no such thing as the end justifying the means when it comes to abortion, and I believe that you can say this whilst still understanding why a woman would want an abortion, but still not agree with it. I take Catholic beliefs seriously on this matter, and if life begins at conception, why should we end it, still believing that the statement is true? It’s like being given the truth, and going against it regardless. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus purposely end the life of a young child (as the word foetus derives from the Latin word meaning small one, or young child) no, he wouldn’t, he’d to anything to protect them, and as St Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body now but yours No hands, no feet on earth but yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world and yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now”. Abortion isn’t benefiting God’s world, it’s merely destroying it. Think, what if you were aborted, what wouldn’t exist now? If you think about aborting your child, just think like this “They could be a doctor, they could be a scientist, or they could be aborted… and not have the choice” Sorry to whoever gets this, but I didn’t know where else to put it on the VLE, I saw the assignment and thought I’d have a go at it, it’s not meant to be a good standard though, I’m only in y9 