Religion and Early Life

  • Created by: Mimzee
  • Created on: 12-05-15 18:10

The miracle of life

The miracle of life

  • Many people accept the creation & arrival of new human being as special/best moment of thier life
  • Several factors have to happen for conception - fertility not totally under our control
  • The miracle of life is truly considered by many couples who have tried for so long & enventually concieve - miracle that human race continues

Children - blessing/gift

  • Religions often mark newborn birth with a ceremony to show thankfulness. Some don't see it as a 'right' or something they deserve
  • Children are seen to them as a blessing - wonderful given by a loving God. Buddhists don't believe in God/children as gifts - still regard all humans as precious

Sanctity of life

  • Christians, Jews & Muslims believe that life is sacred/holy since it is God givin. He created life/natural means of reproduction. Should be valued & cherished - not destroyed. God gave life - only he has the right to take life away.
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The miracle of life

Sanctity of life - other beliefs

  • Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs believe in the value of life - everyone deserves the chance to do good & build good karma. Karma affects this or a future life. Respecting life = good karma. Destroying life = bad karma.
  • Hindus believe in non-violence. Buddhists follow precept - refrain from taking life - it is sacred & should be preserved
  • Tibetan Buddhists use this comparison: blind turtle swims in a large ocean & comes to it's surface once every 100 years. Human rebirth is as likely as that turtle putting it's head through a small golden ring that's floating on the water surface -> shows their belief in the value of human life

Miracle of life - the idea that life is wonderful, amazing or special

Blessing - the idea that God has favoured a couple with a child

Sanctity of life - life is sacred because it is God-given

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Different views about when life begins

When does life begin?

  • The question is important because once alive, the person has human rights including the right to life - thus killing them is unlawful. Babies and young kids are dependent on others for survival - wouldn't live long on their own

Views on with the foetus becomes a separate person:

  • Conception - when sperm meets with the egg. The individual's unique DNA is fixed with genetic info 
  • Development of backbone or spinal column housing the CNS. 3rd week of pregnancy
  • Heart starts beating - 4th week of pregnancy
  • Foetus is viable - could survive on its own outside the womb if born prematurely. It's rare for under 500g babies or <22 weeks to survive
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Religious views about when life begins

  • Buddhists - before conception - all living things within cycle of life, death & rebirth - no point of 'beginning'
  • Hindus, Sikhs, some Jews & Christians (especially RCs) - life begins at conception. Something unique comes into being. The embyro (foetus <8 weeks) is a person/potential person - thus has rights
  • Many Jews & others - foetus is becoming a person but not legally one until birth. Ensoulment happens when the person leaves their mother's womb
  • Muslims -potential life from conception - ensoulment happens after 120 days - where human life really starts

Don't overgeneralise - not all agree, even within the same religon. Phrases like 'some Muslims think...' or 'many Sikhs believe' show awareness of different opinions.

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Quality of life

Quality of life - a measure of fulfillment/what type of life the baby will have. Things to consider:

Severe disability

  • Babies w/ severe mental or physical disabilities may live in suffering or pain. Might not be able to enjoy a full life or communicate with others

Unwanted child

  • Unplanned children are often loved but some can lead to resentment in women in circumstances unsuitable for motherhood - may not be able to give the love or care it deserves - very young mothers may not be ready for such commitmenrs - father may not wish to be involved - occasionally some babies are conceived through ****.


  • Particularly large or very low income families can't afford children. Baby things are expensive - quality of life/whole family may be affected. Parents may give up work to take care for child. Financially well-off children may suffer neglect - parents may not have time for it/unable to provide emotional support
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Justification of ending a pregnancy

Child's disability

  • Severe disability may be a threat to be a serious threat to QoL. However, many disabled people live happy/productive lives. UK - 102 medals in Beijing Paralympics. Can deafness/having a cleft palate justify ending a pregnancy?
  • Paralympic Games - sports events for athletes with physical/visual diabilities. Organised to celebrate athletic achievements, not disability. Examples include athletes with cerebral palsy, blindness, wheelchair users, amputees, dwarfism, MS etc. Motto is 'Spirit in Morion' - chance for disabled athletes to strive for the best - no limits to achievements

Quality of life

  • Sufficient reasons must be considered e.g. comparing career plans, holidays, or QoL of the parents. How predictable are these/similar circumstances on a child's QoL?
  • Poverty = relative term. Absolute/extreme poverty could be described as poor QoL. The state supports poor people in Britain.
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Abortion and the Law

Abortion - deliberate termination (Ending) of a pregnancy, usually before the foetus is 24 weeks & viable. Involves removal of foetus from womb to end pregnancy. Unlike miscarriages which happen naturally, often w/o the mother knowing

Legal position

<1967 - abortion illegal in the whole UK. Women had to turn to unqualified ppl willing to break the law if they wished to abort, sometimes with tragic results. 

1967 Abortion Act, 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act - abortion permitted if 2 doctors agree on one of the following conditions:

  • woman might die unless pregnancy is ended
  • substantial risk of severe physical or mental disabled baby
  • risk to a woman's physical/mental health
  • risk to mental health of existing children

1967 - allowed up to 28 weeks. 1990 Act - changed time limit to 24 weeks. Some want it as low as 12 weeks. No time limit if mother's life is in danger, baby is severely abnormal, grave risk of mental/physical injury to woman. Emergency - 2nd doctor not required

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Abortion and the Law

In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal except when the doctor acts to save the mother's life

Other considerations:

  • Most abortions are carrried out early on grounds of risk to mother's mental health
  • Some carried out to reduce # of multiple birth foetuses where woman has recieved fertility treatment to reduce risk to healthy development of remaining babies
  • The law does NOT consider the father's rights only the mother, foetus, and existing children
  • Around 185,000 abortions take place every year. <200 a year = after 24 weeks
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Moral and legal debates concern rights of abortion:

Unborn child

  • Supporters may say that the foetus still has life regardless of when it begins. Foetus=dependent on mother but distinct. Unable to speak for itself thus needs protection. Unique and deserves same rights to life as anyone. Voluntary unprotected sex = responsibility to life of resulting foetus

Rights of mother

  • To choose - some emphasis right of choice. Foetus in mother's body -> her life, health, freedom most affected. She must have the final say
  • Safety - legal early pregnancy = easy and safe rather than at childbirth. Some argue that if mother didn't have to wait for 2 doctos to agree, abortions = more quick and safe than present. They would like to see changes in the law
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Right to equality of oppurtunity

  • Every child should be wanted and every mother should be willing. Abortion supporters: gives women equal oppurtunities in education, jobs & society - they can decide whether/when to have children. No one knows better about the choices she makes than the woman concerned
  • Woman's rights supporters who oppose abortion: women shouldn't be pushed into abortion through poverty. If abortion not readily available - firms should decide on more flexible working and childcare facilities for working mothers - abortion is actually stopping progress

Father's rights

  • Fathers have legal responsibilities to support their children financially but few rights - women have the final decision
  • Examples: 1 - father wants woman to have abortion but she wants to have the child. He has no legal right to make that demand. 
  • 2 - Father wants the mother to have the baby and she refuses. Many court cases lost in America regarding this - courts consistently judged that a woman's right to abort can't be vetoed bt a husband/boyfriend. She doesn't even have to tell him that she's pregnant. Under a new equal rights law in China, one man won the case of suing his wife for denying him the right to a child by having an abortion.
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Arguments for and against abortion

  • Pro-choice - in favour of a woman's right to choose an abortion
  • Pro-life - opposed to abortion/in favour of foetus' life
  • Pressure Groups - collections of people outside the government who campaign for changes in society

Pro-choice arguments:

  • 'A woman's right to choose'. The woman carries the baby, gives birth and will have to look after the child if it's born. She should have the right to end her pregnancy if she wishes
  • Life doesn't really start until the baby is born, or at the earliest, when the foetus is viable. The woman already has greater rights
  • The risk to the mother's health outweighs the rights of the baby
  • Women's circumstances should be considered including: **** victims (shouldn't be constantly reminded of ordeal), young girls (shouldn't have to give up education), father's desertion (might not cope emotionally/financially on her own) pregnancy @ wrong time (could ruin woman's career/affect her mental health), poverty & QoL should be taken into account
  • Adoption may be an alternative but it's not emotionally easy for mother to give up baby
  • Law changes that forbid abortion - dangerous illegal abortions return
  • Cruel to bring a severely physically/mentally handicapped child into the world
  • Too many people in the world already - why more unwanted children?
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Arguments for and against abortion

Pro-life arguments:

  • Some abortion opponents think medical evidence supports their views that unborn child = separate human being w/ feelings & intelligence from conception. Hence, abortion is murder
  • Abortion may lead to depression and guilt - could leave physical/mental scars
  • Disabled people can enjoy happy fulfillef lives and would chose life over termination
  • Unwanted children can be adopted by those who can't make their owwn
  • United Nations Decleration of Rights of the Child states that children need protection both before and after birth
  • Each person is unique and has something to offer in life
  • Abortion can be used selfishly to avoid responsibilities. Might be used thoughtlessly - instead of contraception/social reasons
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Pressure Groups

Pro-choice arguments - Pressure group

  • Abortion Rights - national campaign group - defends safe, legal abortion and opposes ANY lowering the 24 time week limit. Wants women to be able to legally recieve abortion whenever they request it - 'abortion on demand'. Campaigns for equal access to abortion - every woman. wherever they live, can immediately get abortion

Pro-life arguments - Pressure group

  • Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) argues against abortion - should only be allowed when mother's life is in danger. Campaigns for more support for pregnant mothers, increased welfare benefits for single mothers/adoption. Apposes ammendmenrts to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act that could reduce the # of doctors to one, allow nurses/midwives to perform abortion & make abortion easier to obtain

More moral than religious arguments.

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Western teachings about abortion


  • All Christians believe in the sanctity of life. Children are created in God's image (Gen 1:27) and are a blessing/precious gift from God. Roman Catholics and other Christians believe that life begins at contraception
  • "From the time the ovum is ferilized, a new life has begun ... It would never become human if it were not human already" - Roman Catholic Declaration on Procured Abortion - 1974
  • Abortion - deliberate killing - breaks commandment 'Thou shall not kill' (Exodus 20:13). God loves children (Matt 18:10, Luke 18:15-16)
  • "You shall not kill kill an unborn child, or murder an unborn infant" - Didanche
  • Some Christians accept Abortion under certain circumstances. Many Methodists/Anglicans think that sometimes abortion is the lesser of two evil e.g. risk to mother's life/****. Golden rule of Christianity - "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:33) - they ask what's the most compassionate and loving thing to do?
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Western teachings about abortion


  • Muslims believe all human life is precious - sacred gift from Allah (Qur'an 17:33). Anyone who carries out abortion will suffer in the next life
  • "No severer of womb-relationship ties will ever enter paradise" - Hadith
  • Many Muslims believe lide begins at moment of conception - abortion is murder. No exception for severely disabled foetuses. Aborted children will ask why they were killed on Judgement Day (Qur'an 81:7-9).
  • Other Muslims say that the foetus is ensouled at 120 days when it is then regarded as a person. Before that time - mother has more rights than foetus. After that point, mother and foetus have equal rights. Social/economic reasons for abortion is forbidden. 
  • The Muslim idea of ensoulment doesn't mean that they can have abortions before that time for just any reason - there still has to be a serious ending for ending the pregnancy
  • "You shall not kill your children for feat of want. We will provide for them and for you. To kill them is a grievous sin." - Qur'an 17:31
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Western teachings about abortion


  • God created life & knows us even before our birth 
  • "You knit me together in my mother's womb ... When I was woven together ... your eyes saw my uniformed body" (Psalms 139:13, 15-16)
  • God may give us vocation in life before birth (Isaiah 49:5 , Jeremiah 1:5) 
  • Sanctity of individual life is important. Jews take God's command to have many children seriously. 
  • Abortion on demand is considered wrong. However, Judaism teaches that the foetus isn't a person until its head leaves the womb unlike many religions. Therefore, mother's life is priority over foetus. The Talmud recommends abortion if woman in labour has life-threatening difficulty.
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Eastern teachings about abortion


  • Life is a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirt until nibbana is reached. Life has already begun at conception - abortion is the deliberate taking of life. Goes against the teaching "I will not harm any living thing."
  • Tibetan Buddhists - it's so rare to be reborn in human form. To waste this precious human rebirth, all previous lives are wasted spent trying to gain enlightenment.
  • Motives are considered to be very important. If the reasons are selfish, out of despair/hatred, this will lead to bad karma. Each case depends on its merits & wise/skillful actions taken. In some circumstances, abortion might be the most compassionate action and could be balanced by good intention.
  • "Abortion is the same as taking the life of a living being and as such is not a just action. However, there may be exceptional situations... if the child will be born with severe abnormalities or where the mother's life is in danger. It depends on the intention behind the action." - Dalai Lama
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Eastern teachings about abortion


  • Brahman (the Supreme Spirit) - within every living being. All living beings = part of Brahman - all life is sacred - needs to be valued & respected
  • "In him all thinks exist, from him all things originate.  He has become all. He exists on every side. He is truly the all" - Mahabharata Shanti Parvi 47-56
  • Soul is part of cycle of birth, rebirth and death until finally released. The soul is reborn in another person/a lesser form. Life continues at conception. Baby = indivifual from then on. Abortion destroys life that's part of God's creation and goes against principle of non-violence
  • "His being is the source of all being, the seed of all things that in this life have their life... He is God, hidden in all thngs, the inmost soul who is in all. He watches the works of creation, lives in all things, watches all things." - Svetasvatara Upanishad
  • Hindu's main duty as householder = have children. Scriptures consider abortion as a serious sin. Abortion affects karma and selfish motives result in bad karma
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Eastern teachings about abortion


  • Sanctity of life and child is a gift from God (Guru Granth Sahib 1239). Everyone may have different abilities, personalities & circumstance in life but are all important and valuable
  • "God is one and we are all his children" - Guru Granth Sahib 611
  • Each person has a 'divine spark'. Soul is part of God and will be reabsorbed into God when it's free from the cycle of rebirths. Human life is the highest life form on earth and begins at conception. Therefore, abortion is seen as morally wrong and life needs to be protected.
  • "Abortion is taboo as it is an interference in the creative work of God" - Mansukhani 1986b:183
  • Abortion is accpeted in certain circumstances e.g. ****/mother's life in danger. Believe it's up to parents to make the right decision.

Refer to religious teachings as evience when refering to religous attitudes towards abortion. Refer to the text or quote - this shows 'sound knowledge' to the examiner

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Alternatives to Abortion

Keeping the baby

Social stigma of unwed mother is not as strong as was in the past. Single mums receive houseing and social security benefits. Father is legally required to pay a contribution to child support and young women may recieve help from their own families.


Relatives, step-parents or couples who don't have a family & wish to have children may adopt. Law requires full investigation of parent's circumstances seeing if they can give the baby the love and care it needs. Adopted children = entitled to birth certificates and adoption records at 18 and may try to find their birth parents if they hadn't contacted them before

Religous views on adoption

Customs vary as most religions follow guideline's within their country's law. Some religions restrict adoption to children of same religion. Muslims believe blood ties are important. If they raise a child who is not their own they don't adopt it. Instead the child remains a member of the original family despite being brought up with love and care of natural son/daughter. More like fostering.

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Alternatives to Abortion


Some children are placed into temporary foster care until they are in the position to look after  the child themselves. Foster parents  - paid by the govt. to look after a child within their own family. 'Looked after children' may stay a short time/longer if the situation requires. Some are eventually adopted by foster parents or another family.

Adoption: the legal process where a person (child) is taken (adopted) into the family as a son or daughter

Fostering: taking a child from a different family into a family home and bringing them up with the rest of the new family

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Religious teachings in real-life situations


  • Oppose abortion but some agree with the Dalai Lama - individuals' situations should be taken into acount. Foetus would probably be lost if a mother could die. Abortion may be in the best interests of the baby if it will be born severely disabled. Loving kindness & compassion should be basis for decisons


  • Most agree that abortion is wrong but differ about whether it should be allowed in some situations
  • Roman Catholics & some Cs totally oppose abortion - every life=equal value - abortion for severe disability is wrong. Not to use to judge the usefulness. **** - why should the child pay for the father's sin?
  • Other Christians e.g. Anglicans - compassion is needed during judgement. Abortion = justified - save mother's life/****. >24 weeks - should only occur if child would die soon after birth. <24 weeks - mostly accepted for severely disabled child/if the mother felt it was for the child's best interests - matter for conscience. Methodists allow during: risk to life/health of mother or family/great poverty/severe poverty/****
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Religious teachings in real-life situations


  • Abortion made legal in 1971 despite strong disapproval among Hindus
  • Most accept abortion to save mother's life. Some accept abortion for ****/disability/risk to mother's health/great poverty. Selfish motives like unwanted pregnancy/social reasons = condemned. 
  • Many pregnancies ended in India when scans show baby is a girl - males more highly valued


  • Though forbidden, allowed at any time to save mother's life as lsset of two evils. Some scholars think it's wrong but shouldn't always be punished. Scholars disagree about when ensoulment takes place. Some say - embryo has rights from conception. 1990 - Islamic World League accepted abortion <120 day for severe disabilities. Some allow abortion in case of ****/incest since mother shouldn't have to suffer because of the child. Others argue - right to life doesn't depend on cause of pregnancy. All scholars condemn abortion because of poverty
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Religious teachings in real-life situations


Only permitted for serious reason & after rabbi consultation. Orthodox Rabbis permit is if mother's life is at risk from pregnancy or she might consider suicide. Most don't accept abortion for disability as they are considered to be for the mother's health

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