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Beliefs in the sanctity of life Essay

Explain how beliefs in sanctity of life may influence ethical approaches to abortion This issue involves the principles associated with abortion and involves the consideration of the act of killing and the ethical questions that this raises. The belief that life is in some way sacred or holy is widely supported throughout several different cultures and religions, and is traditionally understood as being given by God. Believers in the Sanctity of Life take a deontological position in which love and compassion for all human life has a significant role in their everyday lives. The sanctity of life argument is often put forward from a Christian viewpoint, and is also supported in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England also combines opposition to abortion with recognition that there can be “strictly limited” conditions in which it is morally acceptable to carry out an abortion. Members of this Church share the Roman Catholic view that abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law”, suggesting that life is precious and reinforcing their belief in the sanctity of life. The Church says that human life begins when the woman’s egg is fertilised by a male sperm. From that moment a unique life begins, independent of the life of the mother and father. The features that distinguish us from our parents – the colour of our eyes, the shape of our face – are all laid down in the genetic code that comes into existence then.

Each new life that begins at this point is not a potential human being but a human being with potential, therefore abortion is wrong, because life is precious and created in God’s image. Kant gives the idea of the sanctity of life a non-religious perspective based on ethical grounds. He considers each human life sacred, and said that everyone has potential to have a good life, therefore against abortion as he believes life starts from conception. Abortion cannot be justified in Kantian ethics if it simply concerns itself because the foetus has intrinsic value based upon the principle of the sanctity of life. However Singer argues from both sides, and says “To kill a human adult is murder, and is unhesitatingly and universally condemned. Yet there is no obvious sharp line which marks the zygote from the adult. Hence the problem.”

By recognising the problem of abortion and when a foetus becomes a person, in which killing it is punishable, Singer considers the social moral grounds of killing and the ethical questions it raises. Therefore by not coming to a full conclusion, we see that not all people have an absolute view on the sanctity of life in relation to abortion. Some relativists say that they are neither pro-life nor pro-choice, and it depends entirely on the circumstance. For example, if giving birth to a baby would put the mother’s life at risk, then an abortion would be acceptable because it could be argued that a foetus is not a person and that the sanctity of the mother’s life is greater than the foetus’, meaning that they may interpret the terms ‘life’ and ‘unborn’ differently. Whilst looking at these two interpretations, the sanctity of different stages of life are brought into consideration.

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