Abortion is when a mother decides that she can’t go ahead with her pregnancy and decided to get rid of it. There can be many reasons why a mother wants to abort her baby, there might be a problem with the baby or the mother may be at risk herself if she gives birth. Every person has a different view on abortion and in ethics abortion refers to the international destruction of a foetus in the womb. All ancient views differ as they do now, Aristotle favoured abortion to control the size of a family, but the Hippocratic Oath prohibited it.
Since 1967, when abortion was legalised, it has been allowed under certain circumstances, which are that it can be performed if two registered doctors believe that it will involve more injury to the physical and mental health of the mother or if the child would be handicapped by physical or mental abnormalities. Abortion first came illegal in the 19th century when the penalty for ‘procuring a miscarriage’ was life imprisonment. Women who were trying to escape the burden of an unwanted pregnancy were forced to use unreliable and dangerous methods, including poisonous drugs, knitting needles, soup or lead solutions inserted through syringes, and blows to the abdomen. As a result from the number of people dying there was pressure for reform finally resulted in Liberal MP David Steel’s Abortion Law Reform Bill, which became law on 27th October 1967 and took effect on 27th April 1968.
Christianity holds all human life to be sacred; to say that life is sacred implies reverence and respect. It is commonly assumed that killing is wrong, although there are justifications such as self-defence that allow it. There is not very much teaching that is directly about abortion within the Bible and this is because during the time that the Bible was written, abortion was not the common occurrence like it is today. The Bible does not us the word ‘abortion’ or deal with the issues directly, but many Christians use the Bible to support their views.
The Roman Catholic is the only major world religion to rule that abortion is absolutely unacceptable in all circumstances, including the possible death of the mother and it is also against any form of contraception and so you would have to go ahead with the pregnancy. In the Bible it says in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before you were formed in the body of your mother I had knowledge of you, and before your birth I made you holy; I have given you the work of being a prophet to the nations.” This is telling us that God has already made us before we are born and this backs up the theory that every human life is unique and that we are indeed killing a person by aborting it. Thirty years ago Pope Paul VI issued ‘Humanae Vitae’ which upheld the Christian teaching that all artificial contraception was wrong and this is a base for showing that you need to go ahead with a pregnancy which was mentioned before.
There are four principles that summarise the Roman Catholic position on abortion, they are: God alone is the Lord of life and death; human beings do not have the right to take the lives of other innocent human beings; human life begins at the moment of conception; and abortion, at whatever the stage of development of the foetus, is taking of innocent life. In the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, they teach us that abortion is wrong because it denies the foetus the right to life but the Church recognises that there are certain extreme circumstances when her needs override the rights of the foetus.
The Methodist Church believes that the foetus is part of the band of human existence and that people are created for relationships with God and with other people. There are two views that are within the church, one is that the value and importance of all forms of human life by stating that the foetus has a sacred right to life. The other is that it favours the interests of the mother, the foetus is totally dependant on her for at least the first twenty weeks of pregnancy and she has the right to decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy. The Evangelical and Baptist Churches also agree with abortion being a matter for the individual to decide. Anglicans believe that if the mother is likely to die in childbirth, it is absurd to look upon the unborn child’s life as more valuable than the mother’s.
Other religions also follow some of these views, Judaism teaches that life begins at the moment of birth, however abortion is discouraged except where the mother’s life is at risk. Islam also teaches that abortion is permitted only in extreme circumstances in which case the actual life of the mother takes priority over the probable life of the foetus.
Is abortion murder? In Britain, legally it isn’t, however there is something that is being killed when an unborn child is aborted, but what is it. We need to decide if when we abort the foetus, if we are killing a human being, but to do this we need to know what we would classify as a human being, is it when you have all of your senses or when you look like a human being. Normally you would call a human someone who is out of a mother’s womb or someone who looks like us, but a baby that is fully grown inside of a mother’s womb is clearly a human being as it has all of the features of a human, so in fact we are killing a human.
These Christian teachings may make a person stronger in their beliefs and so they will try and get their message across to other people, but some Christians may not believe entirely what God believes and what they have been taught. A poll was set up in 1988 and asked ‘Do you think that women should have the right to choose abortion in the first few months of pregnancy?’ From these results, 86% of people who follow the Church of England believed that women should have the right to choose abortion and so these people do not completely follow their religion as the C of E say that abortion is wrong and that it denies the foetus right to life.
In the Roman Catholic religion, over two thirds believed that women had the right to abortion, even though Catholics believe that abortion is totally unacceptable in all circumstances and so these results show that most RC’s do not believe in what their religion believes in, in the case of abortion. With non-Christians there are 87% of Jews, 100% of Sikhs, 66% of Hindus, and 33% of Muslims who all believe that the mother has the choice of abortion, with those that do not have religious beliefs, 85% supported the right to choose and so some still do not agree with the right to choose abortion. This poll was a while ago and so compared to a poll in 2001 which showed that 65% of the people asked believed that if a woman wants an abortion she should not have to continue with the pregnancy and so more and more people have changed their attitude towards abortion and are following the beliefs of their religion.
Christians who have had children of their own may influence them in how they think about abortions and how they feel about it; Christians train children to reject it and to see it as a part of the list of injustices and evils in the world rather than part of the list of rights, freedoms and choices.
There are many ways in which a Christian might use their beliefs to put their point across about abortion. The most likely one would be within a discussion with other people, where they might show their disagreement with abortion and use their faith to explain their opinions. There are also many different ‘pro-life’ organisations that campaigns against abortion such as Life or SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child), where these organisations organise protest marches and other methods of protest to get their point across. A Christian’s beliefs about abortion may affect the way they vote, as they may vote for someone who may make abortion harder to obtain.
Many people decide to take part in protests against abortion, such as writing letters to newspapers and to their MP. They may also take part in marches and demonstrations where they carry signs that show their opinions and also protest at clinics that offer abortions to try and persuade people who visit the clinic to change their mind about having an abortion. A Christian might try to encourage schools to give children better sex education so that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies and they may also organise talks to young people within their church or become volunteers at counselling centres to help give advice about contraceptives.