Abortion and Euthanasia

Abortion is when a pregnancy is purposely, prematurely terminated. The operation itself is very simple and takes only twenty minutes, the foetus is removed from the wall of the mothers womb, quickly dies and the pregnancy is ended A woman may want an abortion for a number of different reasons. She may feel that having another child would be difficult as she may not be on a high enough income to look after another child adequately. She may also not wish to marry the father of the baby, this could happen if the pregnancy was an accident and if the mother is a teenager or she may have been raped.

Different people have very different beliefs on whether abortion is right or wrong. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that deliberate procured abortion is always a serious sin. Catholics believe that life begins at conception and from that moment it is sacred and everybody should protect it. Other people would argue that life only begins at birth or when the baby is developed enough inside the womb to survive in the outside world. Catholics also believe that life is a gift from God and only God decides when life begins and when life ends.

Although the church does not believe in abortion it will allow indirect abortion through the doctrine of double effect under two circumstances. If the mother has an ectopic pregnancy she is allowed to have an operation to correct it but the foetus will be destroyed. Also if the mother is suffering from cancer she can have chemotherapy but this will almost certainly cause a miscarriage. It is stated in the bible that god knows you before you are born and he knows your destiny in life whether you are handicapped or not.

The word of Yahweh was addressed to me saying ‘before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you’ (Jeremiah Ch 1). The protestant church also believes that abortion is only acceptable in some cases, where it will save the life of the mother. Other people who are not Christians believe different things, there are two opposing arguments. Those in favour of abortion argue that every woman has the right to do as she pleases with her own body and that every baby should be born into a family environment where it can be guaranteed food, shelter and clothing and in some cases this is not possible.

People would also argue that giving up a child for adoption is more of a trauma than having an abortion because, an adopted child could be anywhere in the world and the mother would not know if the child is still alive or what sort of life he or she is living. Others in favour of abortion may argue that there are already too many unwanted babies in the world so, why add more? Other people that are opposed to abortion may argue that every baby is a precious gift from God and must not be destroyed.

Also many couples are unable to have children so wish to adopt, there are very few babies available for adoption so this may seem a better option than abortion. They also believe that modern science has proved that a foetus is a separate human being from conception and that it has a right to protection even before it is born. The Vatican documents state, “From the time the ovum is fertilised, a life is begun, which is neither that of the father nor of the mother. It is rather the life of a new human being with its own growth.

It would never be made human if it were not human already” (Paragraph 12). Before 1967 abortion was illegal in the Britain but thousands of ‘back street abortions’ were being carried out. As a result of these many women died and thousands were severely permanently injured. The law clearly had to be changed, as women would be having abortions whether it was legal or not. The government realised this, and as soon as abortion was legal and a proper medical procedure, fatalities due to ‘back street abortions’ dramatically dropped.

The abortion act of 1967 was passed and it stated that two doctors must both agree that an abortion is necessary before it can be carried out. It is only necessary if there would be a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother or that there is a risk that the foetus would be born with a serious physical or mental handicap. This is to stop women having abortions for impractical reasons, like; the birth of the baby would coincide with a holiday that has been booked. It also states that the abortion must be carried out in a registered hospital unless it is an emergency.

Another law was passed in 1990 called the human fertilization and embryology act. This act says that an abortion is acceptable if the pregnancy is not longer than twenty-four weeks and if the pregnancy involves a risk to the mother, the unborn child or the welfare of any existing children of the family. In America though babies can still be aborted up until birth. Euthanasia The word ‘euthanasia’ literally means ‘gentle and easy death’ but it has gradually become the term used for ‘mercy killing’ or ‘assisted suicide’. There are two different types of euthanasia.

Active euthanasia is when steps are taken to kill some one and passive euthanasia is when a treatment of some kind is withheld e. g. a life support machine turned off or a needed operation not performed. In 1936 there was a debate in the House of Lords about whether euthanasia should be legalised if the persons illness was incurable, fatal and painful, but this was rejected. There was another debate in 1969 on voluntary euthanasia, which would have allowed a person to express their wish for euthanasia in advance of an incurable and painful illness.

EXIT, a voluntary euthanasia society believes in letting people decide when they wish to die should life become unbearable. Dying at their own request would allow them to die with a loved one, or a member of the society close to them and comforting them as they pass away. At the moment it is illegal to assist someone in an act of suicide or voluntary euthanasia. There are many different beliefs on whether euthanasia should be legal or not. The people that believe in active euthanasia being legalised may argue that in euthanasia the patient is released from painful suffering and a useless existence.

It also relieves society of the burden of a person who is totally unproductive and expensive to look after. This means that doctors and other medical staff can concentrate on helping those who still have a chance of meaningful life. There are also arguments for passive euthanasia. It is not fair or right to assist a baby who is so physically or mentally handicapped that he or she will not lead a constructive life but will forever be dependant on parents and institutions and they may need many painful operations in order to survive in their meaningless existence.

Although the reasons for euthanasia may sound compassionate, there are many equally compassionate people who are strongly opposed to euthanasia for the following reasons. It is unnecessary because drugs called analgesics are not only painkillers but can also relieve the tension of having a terminal illness such as cancer. Often people with only a short time to live are able to remain active, calm and conscious until they die. Most Christians would hold to the reasons against voluntary euthanasia but would describe them as supportive arguments only. Life is the gift of God and everyone has the potential of a relationship with God.

We can never write anyone off as ‘useless’ or a ‘human vegetable’ if we believe this. Real compassion is shown by deep loving and caring for the sick and suffering and in suffering there can be experiences, which make a person and their loved ones stronger. Furthermore, God’s strength is available even in the most difficult circumstances and God had a purpose for each individual life. To ask for euthanasia would be to deny some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Some people may argue about whether or not euthanasia is murder so it breaks the law and Gods fifth commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’.

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