Explain the religious and ethical views on key issues surrounding the abortion debate.

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Explain the religious and ethical views on key issues surrounding the abortion debate. [35]

Abortion, the premature expulsing of an unborn child from the womb, is one of the most hotly debated issues of our time. On one side of the argument there is the pro-choice community who believe that abortion should be available to all women, and on the other there is the pro-life community who believe that it is the murder of an innocent human. Deciding what side is correct depends on an individual’s religious, scientific and ethical views. Key issues include the moral status of the unborn child, and whether its rights outweigh the mother’s. In examining this multifaceted debate, a good place to start is the Christian perspective.

Many of the early church fathers had an existentialist view, where the foetus progressively becomes a person over time. Some are influenced by St Thomas Aquinas who identified the moment of ‘quickening’ as the decision point of development. This key moment is also significant for the formation of the brain and the first appearance of the ‘human icon’, when the foetus begins to look like a human being. Personhood is the main issue here. Humans are beings with human tissue, but persons must have moral status. For example, a baby without a brain could be regarded as a human but not a person. The question of whether or not abortion is murder depends on your definition of personhood. With today’s scientific advancements most Christians no longer accept the views of Aquinas and Aristotle on abortion. Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the father of In Vitro Fertilization, wrote, “Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.”
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As with all issues, Christian turn to the Bible to defend their position. Christians believe in the sanctity of life, meaning that all human life is created in God’s image and has intrinsic worth. The most important verse they turn to is part of the Decalogue: do not kill. At face value this may include abortion, but on the other hand, it doesn’t cover the killing of animals or killing in battle. It may not be as absolute as Christians make out. Other verses include an instance in Luke when John the Baptist recognised the presence of Jesus ...

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