Medical Induction the drug prostaglandin is used to soften the cervix and to make the uterus contract. The prostaglandin causes labour that is very like having a miscarriage and which usually lasts from 6 to 12 hours (Sometimes it is necessary to go to theatre to ensure the uterus is empty, this would be done under general anaesthetic). Following treatment there may be some after pain for about an hour or so, and bleeding for 5 to 15 days. Most women are able to go home six to twelve hours after the abortion. This type of abortion is carried out from 15-24 weeks
From 20 - 24 Weeks, the two stage procedure is used. This requires 2 separate general anaesthetics, and 2 nights in the clinic. Sometimes a pessary containing prostaglandin is placed in the vagina before the first anaesthetic to make the cervix more stretchable. The treatment during the first anaesthetic starts a slow natural process that often softens the cervix and the tissues of the pregnancy. This makes the abortion the next day more gentle and complications less likely. The second anaesthetic is given the following day and the treatment is given by Dilatation & Evacuation- Early the next day the patient can go home as long as they are feeling well. After the treatment, there may be some pain with bleeding possibly more than with earlier pregnancy.
Abortion is legal in the UK up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, if there is a substantial risk to the woman's life or if there are foetal abnormalities there is no time limit. To comply with the 1967 Abortion Act, two doctors must give their consent, stating that to continue with the pregnancy would present a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or her existing children. This is not abortion on request, although people tend to assume the act is not as strict as it is on paper.
Abortion in the UK became illegal in the 19th Century, and the penalty for 'procuring a miscarriage' was life imprisonment. Women with unwanted pregnancies were forced to use very dangerous methods, such as poisonous drugs, knitting needles, soap or lead solutions inserted through syringes, and blows to the abdomen. Many people were appalled by the number of women suffering and dying as a result of illegal abortion. Pressure for reform finally resulted in Liberal MP David Steel's Abortion Law Reform Bill, which became law on 27 October 1967 and took effect on 27 April 1968. In 1990 The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act changed the upper limit from 28 to 24 weeks for most abortions, due to the fact that advances in medicine mean it is now possible to keep some babies alive born after about 24 weeks of pregnancy. Since 1967, there have been over 20 unsuccessful attempts in Parliament to restrict the law, prompted by pressure groups opposed to legal abortion. However, recent polls show more than 80% of adults are in favour of abortion on request.
Women want abortions for a variety of reasonsFor example, if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, if the child is likely to be born with a severe disability which the mother/parents would be unable to cope with, if giving birth to a child would mean that the mother would have to take a break from her career or education, and this would be impractical, if the she is not in a stable relationship, if she would be unable to support the child financially, if giving birth to the child would cause the mother physical or mental damage, if she is under 16, or if she would be disapproved of by her family, friends or colleagues, especially if they are against sex before marriage. People are not always sympathetic towards single mothers. . (This highlights the difference between abortion on demand and the 1967 act)
(ii) What biblical and church teachings might be used in a discussion about abortion?
The oldest known Christian document, written about 70CE says: "You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born".
This seems very straightforward. Christians should not support abortion in any way.
The Catechism of the Catholic church says "from the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life"
Roman Catholics are in agreement with the previous reference, and are totally opposed to abortion in any circumstance, as abortion is in fact murder.
The General Synod of the Church of England states that "All human life, including life developing in the womb, is created by God in his own image and is therefore to be nurtured, supported and protected", and that "Marriage is the ideal context for the procreation and rearing of children", however the Church of England recognises that in some circumstances such as severe handicap, danger to the mother or child, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, it is kinder and more appropriate for both the mother and child if an abortion is had.
Other Christian denominations such as Baptists and Methodists have similar views to the Church of England - that abortion is wrong, but it can be the "lesser of two evils" and is therefore permissible in certain circumstances.
Evangelical Christians of all denominations believe that answers can be found through prayer, reading the bible, and ministry through others. They feel that God should be at the centre of their lives and they should talk to him about anything they are bothered about.
The bible appears to be mainly pro-life, but some verses can be interpreted in more ways than one.
In Genesis 1:26-28 God creates human beings in his own image, and tells them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. This could be used to argue that since all humans are created in the image of God, and we should not destroy something formed in God's image. You could also say that by having an abortion you would be directly disobeying the command to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth" Some people think that being created in the image of God has to do with the knowledge of knowing right from wrong and making decisions, and abortion would count as a decision we have the power to make because of this. You could also argue that the command is to fill the Earth, and the Earth is now fairly densely populated.
Exodus 20:13 is the commandment, "you shall not murder" or "you shall not kill" The difference between these two words is crucial for many ethical debates. This could be used to say that abortion is the deliberate killing of a human and is therefore murder. This could be questioned by the debate of when life begins, is the foetus a human? This question is at the centre of the abortion debate. Another argument could be that the commandment is not absolute, Hebrew Scriptures allow capital punishment for many offences, and people are killed in battle, battles are commanded, and God takes sides in many battles in the Old Testament. What is there to say that abortion isn't a special circumstance?
In Psalm 139:13 and 15, David writes that God created human beings as they were in the womb and that he knows and loves them from that point. He also writes that God has a plan for everyone before they are born. This could be used to say that as God knows and loves the unborn children, and has a plan for them, they should not be aborted. However you could also say that as God knows what's going to happen to the baby, he therefore knows that the baby will be aborted, so it is fine for people to have abortions, as you are not taking away a life with an important plan because God knows what is going to happen so he won't have planned for the individual to perform a certain task because he knows they won't enter the world to do it.
Matthew 26:24: "but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born." This means that it would have been better for any person who betrayed Jesus if they had never been born. The verse could be interpreted as meaning that a terminated pregnancy might be better than a completed pregnancy, if the child's life would be miserable. However, in this passage Jesus is talking about Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. He does not mention Judas by name because it has not yet happened, perhaps we are reading too much into a figure of speech (it would have been better if he had not been born)
In Luke 1:41 Elizabeth hears Mary greeting her and the baby she is carrying leaps inside her. Verse 36 states that she was in her 6th month, by which time the foetus could probably survive outside the womb. The verse might be intended to imply that the foetus has some degree of awareness of its environment, is capable of living independently, and should be considered as a human worthy of protection. It says nothing about foetus in the early stages of pregnancy without a functioning brain, consciousness or nervous system. (although they did not know much about this when the bible was written) This passage might be used to argue against the morality of a third-trimester abortion. You could say that it concerns two very special pregnancies and an "ordinary" foetus would not be able to detect the presence of another foetus.
Luke 1:42 says "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb". This statement by Elizabeth might imply that the embryo that Mary was carrying is a child. Otherwise, she would have said "blessed will be the fruit of thy womb". On the other hand, it might simply mean that the embryo was special at the time because it will grow, become a human person, and as this baby would be Jesus it would be special because of that.