GCSE - Religious Studies

Key Idea 

All life comes from God and must be treated and respected as such

"Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception; abortion and infanticide are the most abominable of crimes"
Statement from the Roman Catholic Church

Christians believe that the world is created by God. Therefore all beings in the world come from God in one form or another. Human beings have a responsibility to care for all life, for everything in the world.

The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches forbid abortion totally as we can see from the quote above. In the Document on Procured Abortion (1974) the RC church also states

"From the time that the ovum is fertilised a new life is begun which is neither that of the father or the mother. It is the life of a new human being with its own growth. It would never become human if it were not human already"
Document on Procured Abortion (1974)

The Church of England and most of the Protestant churches agree with the RC and Orthodox churches in principle but they agree that each case is special. Therefore while abortion is generally not accepted, especially as a method of birth control, it may be permitted in certain cases:

1. If there is a serious risk to the mother's life
2. If conception takes place as a result of rape
3. If there is a grave risk that the baby will be born handicapped

"We affirm that every human life, created in the divine image is unique ... and that this holds for each of us, born or yet to be born. We therefore believe that abortion is an evil ... and that abortion on demand would be a very great evil. But we also believe that to withhold compassion is evil, and in circumstances of extreme distress or need, a very great evil ... Christians need to face frankly the fact that in an imperfect world the 'right' choice is sometimes the acceptance of the lesser of two evils"
General Synod of the Church of England

"If you do make a mistake don't destroy the life ... because also to that child God says, "I have called you by your name, I have carved you in the palm of my hand: you are mine"
Mother Teresa (Roman Catholic Nun)

"Although the foetus is to be specially respected and protected, nonetheless the life of the foetus is not absolutely sacrosanct if it endangers the life of the mother"
Church of England - Board of Social Responsibility Report 1984

"To regard the life of the mother as less valuable than that of the unborn child does not consider her 'right to life' in terms of her wider roles of wife or mother (actual or potential) of other children, as well in terms of her own person"
Abortion, an Ethical Discussion, Church information office 1965, p33

"Surely you know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you ? So if anyone destroys the temple God will destroy them for God's temple is holy and you are are that temple"
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The question that we must ask when considering the issue is "Is Abortion Murder?" as no Christian should contemplate murder (6th commandment "You shall not kill"). Obviously a fully grown baby emerging from the womb is alive in its own right but is the union of sperm and ovum (the zygote) "alive" in a recognised sense ? The foetus has a 'brain' and a circulatory system - is this enough? Should we consider the moment that the foetus can survive outside the womb as the moment it becomes alive? Then do we consider the use of medicine to keep it alive? It is vital for Christians to be able to answer this question for they must support one side of the argument. Either the doctors who perform the operation are removing an unthinking, unfeeling bundle of protoplasm from the mother's womb or they are killing a human being capable of experiencing sensations.

Further reading

What the churches say - Medical Issues
Beliefs, Values and Traditions pages 98 - 100
Contemporary Moral Issues - pages 98 - 101
Ethics and Religions - page 46 - 55

From the GCSE Revision Site