Religion fuels much of the intensity of the abortion debate. Modern government is purposefully separated from religion. In the Western world, the teachings of any one religion shouldn¡¦t and don¡¦t dominate the laws of a nation. However the morals and beliefs of the people are what establishes the morals and beliefs of a government. And the abortion debate is not just one of religious attributes, it is one of morality, legality, political and scientific concerns too. And it does not just concern the black and white debate of wrong and right, this at least is commonly agreed upon although many sides use many different types of argument to proves their points.
Morals are dictated by the beliefs and feelings of society. Society today views life as precious, and as being something that should be protected. This is evident by the amount of ¡¥pro-life¡¦ pressure groups that hold weight. Such as The Association of Pro- Life Obstetricians and LIFE. Polls show that most people think that abortion is wrong in the way it is legal today, but only a small percentage of these are against abortion outright. Many religions that dominate culture have denounced the practice, however every one of these has also outlined extreme circumstances where induced abortions may be permitted, thus not outlawing the science and technology of abortion. The circumstances are similar with regards to political leaders speaking out concerning the issue. If this is a fair representation of society, then the morals dictated by this are confused and unclear. Is abortion morally wrong? Can it ever be justified?
In the UK abortion became illegal in 1861 under ¡¥The Offences Against the Person Act¡¦ when the penalty for 'procuring a miscarriage' was life imprisonment. This was backed up in 1929 in the Infant Life Preservation Act. Women trying to escape the burden of an unwanted pregnancy were forced to use unreliable and dangerous methods, including poisonous drugs, knitting needles, soap or lead solutions inserted through syringes, as well as blows to the abdomen. In 1938 in the ¡¥Bourne¡¦ Case, Gynaecologist Aleck Bourne was acquitted of performing an illegal abortion on a girl who had been raped. This is an example of moral values affecting an argument. After this case it was accepted that ¡¥a woman¡¦s mental state could be considered as well as her physical condition¡¦ (1) This, along with the number of women suffering and dying as a result of illegal abortions created pressure for reform. Finally, after the first international abortion conference in 1967 (which put forward the moral argument as well as objective knowledge about women¡¦s health issues), Liberal MP David Steel's Abortion Law Reform Bill took effect on 27 April 1968. The Act protected doctors who performed abortions as long as there were suitable grounds for abortion. The Act also outlined the grounds accepted for legal abortion: (2) 1
Risk to the life of the mother
Up to 40 weeks
To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother
Up to 40 weeks 3
Risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother if greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
Only up to 24 weeks 4
Risk of injury to the physical or mental health of existing (i.e. born) children
Only up to 24 weeks 5
Substantial risk of the child being born seriously handicapped
Up to 40 weeks 6
In an emergency- to save the mothers life
Up to 40 weeks
In an emergency- to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother
Up to 40 weeks This was amended in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which lowered 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. They aim to...
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