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With reference to abortion, examine and comment on the view that the sanctity of life should be regarded as a moral absolute

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Introduction

With reference to abortion, examine and comment on the view that the sanctity of life should be regarded as a moral absolute. The argument of the sanctity of life lies at the heart of all ethical debates on embryo experiments, abortion and euthanasia. In 1967, a nationwide debate was instigated in Britain, regarding whether abortion was a violation of the sanctity of life. Pro-life groups were angered by the legalisation of abortion, many believing that abortion was to destroy a sacred gift from God. Pro-choice groups, on the other hand, welcomed the reform, as they believed women should have the freedom to decide what is best for themselves. The debate continues today, and these groups have not subsided with their vigorous, vivid, and, at times, violent campaigns. To attribute sanctity to a life - as opposed to value, is to 'connect it with a deity' 1. It is of ultimate importance, as the value of life exceeds all other values. Life is a sacred gift from God, according to the Christian Church, so is therefore holy, and is set apart from everything else. It is argued that the human race is obliged to preserve or protect anything that is alive. This is where the question of sanctity of life as a moral absolute is raised. Someone who is an atheist can not believe in the sanctity of life as they do not believe in God. Therefore, those who argue sanctity of life is a moral absolute are religious. This is important to acknowledge, as it means that those who may enter into this ethical debate, are split into religious and non-religious groups. Therefore, opinions and beliefs are very different, which has resulted in the difficulty of these groups compromising in any way. Alasdair Macintyre suggested an imaginary world, where natural sciences suffered the effects of a catastrophe, and all that is remembered of physics, chemistry and biology are fragments, which some people attempt to revive. ...read more.

Middle

They believe God has an intimacy with the human race, unlike the rest of creation, as in Genesis 2.7; it is God who breathes life into man. This gift is precious and to destroy this gift is an act of appalling disrespect. There are certain groups of the Christian Church, however, that state they are not fully opposed to abortion. Liberal Protestant Christians, for example, oppose abortion in principle, but believe that in some circumstances, abortion can be condoned e.g. when the mother's life is in jeopardy, or if the mother has fallen pregnant as she is a victim of rape. Therefore, these groups would not believe sanctity of life is an absolute moral value. Melvin Tinker states that sanctity of life is a fundamental value, not an absolute value, and that it is a constant misrepresentation of the Christian faith that they believe sanctity of life is an absolute ethic. For example, he states that Jesus Christ gave his life for what he considered to be a greater cause (this appears to be a very utilitarian approach, with reference to the greatest good for the greatest number), and also encouraged others to give their lives for the kingdom of God. It could be said, however, that Jesus Christ, being God personified, had the right to take his own life, as God is the provider of life and therefore can take it away. This suggests that Jesus had this right to give life (for example, Jesus raised the dead on three separate occasions, one of those being Lazarus) and take life, and, therefore, was not demeaning sanctity of life as an absolute ethic. One could also argue that Tinker is contradicting himself slightly. The purpose of Jesus' death was to save the lives of others, so, it could be said, the principle of sanctity of life was upheld in this instance. Those who favour abortion tend to use the argument of person-hood in defence of what they believe. ...read more.

Conclusion

There has never been any consideration to regard a plant's life as sacred. This is due to biblical teachings, which state that God's creation of humanity was personal, and it is said that man bears God's image, therefore, it may be more suitable to talk about the sanctity of Human life. I believe that the views of Utilitarianism and Situation Ethics are the strongest and most reasonable. I do not think that one can dismiss abortion, stating that sanctity, or value, of life is a moral absolute, without looking at the circumstances. As an example, if a thirteen year old girl was violently raped, and as a result became pregnant, I believe abortion in this circumstance could be condoned. One may argue that abortion does not solve the issue of rape, but in my opinion, each situation should be judged individually. Going through the experience of rape and then having to enter into parenthood, when she is, most likely, not ready for such a responsibility, I believe a girl in this situation should have the right to choose whether or not to keep the baby. Utilitarianism and Situation Ethics would also condone abortion in this situation, if it was the most loving thing to do, and resulted in the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Therefore, I do not believe sanctity of life should be regarded as a moral absolute, however, I believe the taking of a life can only be condoned in the most extreme, or difficult, circumstances. 1 Oxford dictionary definition. 2 Macintyre, Alasdair. 'After Virtue'. 3 www.jesuschristsaviour.net/ethics. 4 Luke 1:41 5 Jeremiah 1:5 6 St. Augustine. 'De Libero Arbitrio, Book I'. 7 Bowie, Robert. 'Ethical Studies, 2nd Edition'. 8 Arkes, H. 'First Things'. 9 Didache. (obtained from www.bbc.co.uk) 10 M.M. Azamis. 'Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature'. 11 Thompson, Judith Jarvis. 'A defence of Abortion'. 12 Glover, Jonathan. 'Causing Death and Saving Lives'. 13 Bowie, Robert. 'Ethical Studies, 2nd Edition'. 14 Knight, Jill. House of Commons debate, 1966. 15 Bentham, Jeremy. 'An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation'. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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