Abortion is the loss of an embryo or foetus either spontaneously, (miscarriage) or induced, (when a pregnancy is terminated on purpose,) before 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, the spontaneous loss of a foetus is called a stillbirth.
ii) Which biblical and church teachings might be used in a discussion about abortion?
Abortion is not mentioned in the bible, as it was virtually unknown during biblical times. This was mainly due to the fact that a woman’s role in society was to bear, and care for children. This meant that unwanted pregnancies were very rare. Despite this, there is a reference to abortion in the early Christian text, the Didache, “You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb.” A Christian may use this to argue that abortion is wrong.
However the bible does stress the huge importance of human life, telling us, “Man was made in the image of God.” (Genesis 1:27.) This one quote a Christian may use to argue the sanctity of human life. Christians believe that humans are God’s only creatures to have a soul. This sets them aside and makes them special and superior to all other creatures. A Christian may use this to argue that something this special should never be taken away.
Christians would argue against abortion with quotes such as, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” from Jeremiah. They would argue that this shows God knows and loves us as human beings before we are born, therefore making abortion murder.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart,” (Jeremiah 1:5) appears to show that God has a plan for us all, and abortion therefore goes against God’s plans and so is an evil act against God.
This would lead them to use the commandment, “thou shalt not murder,” from Exodus. Murder is killing intentionally or with premeditation. A Christian may argue that abortion therefore fits under the category of murder, and so contradicts the commandment.
The Catholic Church is completely against the idea of abortion, they teach that it is always wrong, in all circumstances and situations, a Catholic would ask, “”Why should a foetus have to suffer for somebody else’s mistake?” They believe that “From the time that the ovum is fertilised a new life is begun which is neither that of the father or the mother. It is the life of a new human being with its own growth. It would never become human if it were not human already” – Declaration on procured abortion. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI described abortion as “today’s gravest injustice.” This came before the Vatican excommunicate the doctors and mother of a 9 year old girl in Brazil who received a life-saving abortion after being abused by her step-father. These examples show the absolutist view of Catholicism towards abortion.
However, Protestants believe that abortion is sometimes acceptable in the most serious of cases, for example if the birth would result in the death of the mother. They only accept abortion as a very last resort.
When looking for the right answer to a moral question about abortion, a protestant will often try to look at the balance between sanctity of life and quality of life, rather than just sanctity of life. They often demonstrate relative morality when dealing with the subject about abortion.
Both Churches believe that adoption is better than abortion as adoption does not involve the death of the foetus, and so respects the sanctity of human life.
Due to the absence of explanation about abortion in the bible, many Christian’s beliefs are based on their church’s traditions or their personal beliefs/experiences.
b) Explain how Christians may put their beliefs about abortion into practice.
A Christian may put their beliefs about abortion into action in a variety of ways. Christians believe in the sanctity of life, this may guide them to support organisations which campaign against abortion, such as The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. SPUC is not a Christian organisation, but they fight against abortion, (except when the mother’s life is in danger,) and embryo research. The support a Christian offers to such organisations may be financial or as a volunteer. SPUC requires ï¿½2 million per year to run effectively, “counteract the culture of death in Parliament and to promote understanding in schools and colleges of the plight of the unborn.”
Due to the Christian belief that adoption is better than abortion, many Christians would either adopt or foster children, this can be done through Christian or non-Christian adoption agencies. This would also be an example of showing agape as it would be likely to give the children a better life.
Christians believe, in almost all circumstances, that it is far better for a woman to have their child, than to have it aborted. This would lead them to offer assistance to those women who choose not to have an abortion. This assistance can come in various forms. Firstly, it can be financial. Offering monetary aid, (this can be done through Christian charities,) can help with clothing, food and other necessities for the child. Also, Christians could babysit children to ease strain on parents, making the raising of the child easier and less stressful for either couples or single parents.
Many Christians believe that they should persuade others that abortion is wrong. They would do this in a variety of ways. For example, they could organise talks for young people in schools or youth clubs. This would help them to publicise their views, and to get them across to people who may at some time in their future, have to make a decision regarding abortion.
Other ways Christians can share their views include taking part in protests and demonstrations or writing letters to newspapers or to MPs.
A way Christians may try to prevent abortions, is to either campaign for, or give, better sex education for young people. This would lower the amount of pregna t women having abortions in the future, as the number of unwanted pregnancies would fall.
A more direct approach for a Christian may be for them to stand outside abortion clinics and talk to women entering, trying to persuade them that their actions are wrong.
A very small minority of fundamental Christians have resorted to violence over recent years. In 1997 and 1998, abortion clinics in America were bombed, causing numerous injuries and one fatality. Since 1996 there has been $13 million damage caused by anti-abortion groups in America. Anti-abortion groups however, must be distinguished from pro-life groups, which a Christian may join.
Pro-life groups fight abortion peacefully and within the law. Many Christians would argue that anti-abortion groups are as evil as abortion.
Finally, Christians believe that God can help us all, and so they may pray for both the mother and foetus; asking for guidance for the mother, and safety for the foetus. They hope that in this way God will guide the woman to make the right choice, often in the form of her conscience.
A Christian may argue that every single method of giving aid described above, is a way of showing agape as it is showing love to the foetus they are protecting and often showing love to the parents they are giving aid to, be that aid physical or financial.
c) “Abortion is never justified.” How far do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer, and show that you have thought about different points of view. You must refer to Christianity in your answer.
My view on abortion is a relative moral view. I believe that in most circumstances abortion is wrong, for example when a child will affect a mother’s career or social life. However, I do believe that in certain circumstances abortion is justified. These would include when pregnancy would cause the mother severe mental or physical harm, as I believe that the life of the mother should always take priority over that of the foetus.
Some Christians may argue that abortion is always wrong as God has a plan set out for each and every one of us, and abortion interferes with this plan and therefore must be against God.
Some non-Christians may say that abortion is acceptable if medical tests show that the child will be severely disabled and have a very poor quality of life. However, many may respond that this shows discrimination against disabled people, and this is completely unacceptable. In this circumstance, I feel that quality of life and sanctity of life must be balanced for a decision to be made.
A Catholic would argue that sex should purely be for procreation and so abortion is unacceptable, those who undertake in sexual intercourse have to be willing to take the consequences of their actions. Catholics may also say that abortion is always murder as life begins at conception, and so abortion is always taking a life.
However, different churches may feel that abortion can be acceptable, for example, the United Reform Church, who believe that life begins at quickening, the stage 16 or 17 weeks after contraception when the foetus begins to move when the foetus begins to move, and so abortion in the early stages of a foetus’ development is acceptable.
Many Christians would argue that abortion is unacceptable as adoption is always better that abortion. Therefore a Christian may say that abortion is always wrong as there is always a better option.
However, this argument could be countered by the situation where a mother’s life is endangered by the birth of a child, many would say that the right thing to do would be for the mother to have an abortion.