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'Every pregnant woman has an inalienable right to have an abortion'. Discuss.

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'Every pregnant woman has an inalienable right to have an abortion'. Discuss. Introduction The moral problems concerning abortion are extensive and very complicated. The issue of whether or not abortion is morally right is one of existence. Specifically, the definition of what it is to be a person, for which there is no universal clarity. It is also one of duty. Namely, whether we have a duty to preserve innocent human life or whether this is less significant than personal autonomy and choice. In addition, it is a relatively contemporary issue and much of religious scripture originates from thousands of years ago. This does not mean it cannot be of any purpose when determining sacred views on modern topics, but that there can be conflict when people assess the same scripture in different ways, often taking vague assertions and using them as a basis to support their principles. The abortion topic is one that generates strong opinions and yet people have not often probed the theoretical assumptions that underpin the debate. The central issues question whether or not the foetus is a person or potential person and whether or not the foetus has rights. For many, the dilemma, in fact, is balancing the rights of the foetus with those of the mother. A common delusion The dilemma is often grossly oversimplified. Expressly, the syllogism with the premise that killing people is morally wrong and the second premise that the unborn foetus is a person, leads us to logically trust the conclusion that the killing of the unborn foetus and hence abortion, is morally wrong. However, both premises are not that simple and are certainly questionable. Many religious ideas permit killing in cases of self-defence and in some instances, it is positively encouraged, on the grounds of religious warfare, which is considered to be a most honourable act and shown in the Islamic concept of 'Jihad'. ...read more.


Christian theologian, St Thomas Aquinas carried forward these ideas, considering God to be this 'Prime Mover'. The crucial issue for both the dualist and the functionalist is when the soul becomes implanted and hence, personhood begins. Aquinas accepted the three Aristotelian stages in embryonic growth. He maintained that in early stages there was only a 'vegetative soul', followed by an 'animal soul' before we came to a 'human soul'. (Wilcockson). From here, we can see that during gestation, Aristotle believed human beings moved up the scale of humanity, until we became human, with half soul and half mind. This means that it is only at this stage that the foetus becomes human and gains rights. Aquinas Christianised the idea somewhat, by affirming that it was God who breathes into the embryo the 'new spirit' when the embryo is prepared to receive it. Previously, the Christian church had used these ideas as its scientific basis, pronouncing that God merged the soul with the body after 40 days with boys and after 90 days with girls. This, of course, led to the idea that abortion was allowable only if it occurred before this time. Indeed, Aquinas maintained that if a pregnant woman was harmed and subsequently aborted, this was not murder if it was before this time. (Vardy and Grosch). The judgement was vaguely made by when the foetus moved in the womb. The 17th century saw advances in scientific understanding and the Catholic Church established that ensoulment actually took place at conception. This was of great consequence and meant that once the egg was fertilised, a human being was created and thus its moral value should correspond to that of a fully-grown person. This led to an ardent attitude against abortion by Catholics and by other religious groups who considered it to be the equivalent of murder. The primary challenge continues to be whether or not such a firm religious view can be sustained. ...read more.


Her point is one that is much affected by the male dominance throughout history. Since 'The Fall' of mankind in Genesis: 3, woman was made from the ribs of man and it is expressly stated that they will endure pain during childbirth. Women have been restricted to being mothers and their freedom has been limited. It cannot be denied that the woman's views must be taken into account, it is her body that is being used and unquestionably, her life will be affected by it. However, it is the implications of choice that is central to this issue. The question is whether or not the rights of the woman can mean she has an undeniable power over the potential life form growing within her, and hence if it is her right to have an abortion. Conclusion Many people choose to take a middle ground in the issue and take the view that abortion is permissible only in certain circumstances. However, the very nature of the statement being considered means that we must consider whether or not the pregnant woman has an absolute right over the foetus within her. Some consider that the implications of this are the status of the foetus at particular points in the pregnancy. Many would argue that if the pregnant woman chooses to exercise control over her own body and to protect herself from the potential dangers of childbearing, then she has the full right to terminate the pregnancy. However, others would argue that the issue is also of responsibility and the pregnant woman must endure the consequences of her actions. A religious stance can vary depending on whether it disregards the Judeao-Christian old-fashioned traditions. In general, theists that believe in an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent often argue that the foetus has been given the capacity for life and this is the privilege of God and consequently has been done with a cause. In solving this clash between whether the woman has an absolute authority over the foetus, the autonomy and physical freedom must be considered alongside the moral worth of the unborn child. ...read more.

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