Abortion: Pro-life vs. Pro-choice

Essay by heenanCollege, UndergraduateA-, October 2004

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The Religious Aspect.

The Church's judgment on abortion is neither male nor female. It is social. It places the rights of the child in the womb into the hands of the law, which sees individual rights as inalienable. The relationship between morality and law, as between Church and society, is surely complex. The historical source of the Catholic teaching on abortion was conviction of the early Christian community that abortion is incompatible with and forbidden by the fundamental Christian norm of love, a norm that forbade the taking of life. By the fifth century, while the condemnation of abortion continued without diminishment, distinctions were on occasion being drawn between abortion and homicide. Both were seen as grave sins, but not necessarily exactly the same sin or to be subject to the same penalty. While theologians of the Eastern Church were apparently the first explicitly to draw a distinction between the 'formed' and the 'unformed' fetus, there quickly developed a strong tradition against using the distinction to differentiate homicide and abortion.

The substance of the Catholic position can be summed up in the following principles: (1) God alone is the lord of life. (2) Human beings do not have the right to take the lives of other human beings. (3) Human life begins at the moment of conception. (4) Abortion, at whatever the stage of development of the conceptus, is the taking of innocent human life. The conclusion follows: Abortion is wrong.

The anti-abortion movement believes that the fetus, even in its embryonic stage of development, is human life and that any deliberate termination of embryonic or fetal life constitutes an 'unjustified' termination of human life. Conversely, proponents of abortion deny that the fetus is human life, particularly during its embryonic stage of development, and therefore believe that the termination of...