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Abortion and Disability

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By talithao
Words 937
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With reference to abortion, examine and comment upon the issues that emerge from keeping up with developments in medical ethics, whilst maintaining religious principles and/or ethical values. (Total for Question 1 = 50 marks)

There are several issues that arise when it comes to the development in medical ethics whilst also maintaining religious principles and ethical values. The development of medical knowledge has allowed for humans to practice different ways in helping society. But these new discoveries have found to clash with religious principles and ethical values. This can be related to the topic of abortion as it goes against monotheistic religious teachings.
In the 21st Century it is allowed for a mother to abort a healthy child up to only 24 weeks in the UK. However, still within the UK it is permissible to abort a foetus with a disability up until the stage of birth. Many thoughts have been voiced as to what message is trying to be implied by this piece of legislation. Does this suggest that it is wrong to carry a disabled child? Or maybe it wouldn’t be wrong or classed as murder to abort a disabled child past the stage of viability even though it’s ready to be born. Or simply that the quality of the life of a disabled person is lesser than that of a healthy person. If this was the case then it could be a possibility that disabled people may not be classed as persons in society as they are not fully functioning humans. If disabled people are not human, this could easily lead to the human rights of these people being stripped away.
Monotheistic religions such as Christianity teach that it is truly a sin to destroy one’s life as they believe that all life is sacred as it is given by God. Anything given by God is sacred and should try to be preserved. We are all the same in Gods eye’s and so there is no life lesser than the other, which the legislation on the abortion of disabled foetuses suggests. In the bible it says, “Know that the Lord is God, who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We as people are not the deciders of the continuation of God’s creation. Therefore aborting foetuses with disabilities is playing God as you’re interfering with Gods plan. And therefore this clashes with the upkeep and maintenance of religious principles because it goes against the traditional teachings of all monotheistic religions.
St Thomas Aquinas’ Natural Moral Law Theory corresponds with this as he mentions in his 1st precept of the preservation of Life. We can relate this to the topic of abortion of foetuses with disabilities as these are still innocent lives, regardless of whether they are fully functioning. If we are to permit the ending of innocent life, we would not be preserving one’s life and we would not be reproducing to multiply the population. And so abortion is major problem concerning religious principles such as the Natural Moral Law, as it defies the rules given by St Thomas Aquinas himself.
However, Feminist, Ruth Hubbard claims to take on a more pro-choice view. She goes against abortion, which, for a feminist, may seem quite unusual, as she does not prioritise the rights, needs and wants of the woman. She believes that abortion of a disabled child is a type of biological discrimination, which is dangerous as a soul ground for abortion for several reasons. Hubbard is able to link this sort of discrimination of disabled people to racial discrimination. To bring this into context, she uses the liquidation of Jews, disabled and other non-ideal groups of people in Nazi Germany and eugenics, practised in the U.S. From this we are able to suggest that there is a difficulty in proving that there is the conservation ethical values, because discrimination, in itself, is ethically wrong. She also brings forward the fact that pre-screening is not altogether as reliable and accurate at foretelling how severe the disability is and will be in the future.
There are some criticisms of Hubbard’s perspective. The first being that people may not have the time and money to afford care for a disabled child, and therefore the foetuses future quality of life and even standard of living may be put at risk. Living in a world set up and built for able bodied people, it’s difficult for a disabled person to be brought up and adapt to carry out even the most simplest of everyday tasks. Aborting a disabled foetus may not intentionally be biologically discriminating, but instead, weighing up the consequences of continuing with the pregnancy until the stage of giving birth, taking into account what life will be like for the foetus in the future.
To conclude, I believe that abortion should only be considered concerning the best interest of the foetus because that is what is seen to be ethically right (by ending the possibility of suffering and low quality of life that the foetus may have to endure if it was to be born). Situation Ethics, devised by Joseph Fletcher could be a religious stance as to why the allowance of abortion for disabled foetuses may be in accordance to religious principles also. For example, dependent on the severity of a disability of a foetus, it might be reasonable to suggest aborting a foetus because it would be the most loving thing to do. Agape love, the kind of love Jesus had for everyone in which this theory teaches us to practice.
Talitha Okirie

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