Sanctity of Life & Abortion

What is the Sanctity of Life (SoL) argument?

The SoL argument states that human life is valuable in itself. According to SoL all life is worthy of RESPECT and REVERENCE and is intrinsically worthwhile. This implies all life is equal and we have a duty to protect it.

Ties with Christianity…

Christians sometimes use this argument to found some of the their ethics (particularly medical ones) because ‘the body is the temple of the holy spirit’. Within Christianity, however, views are divided between the strong and weak SoL argument.

The strong SoL

The strong SoL principle is sometimes known as the pro-life argument, which begins by asserting God is the creator of life, God created us in his image and likeness (Imago dei doctrine). We are different from animals as God blew into Adam’s nostrils not any other animals. The incarnation reaffirms the view that humans are different and that this ensoulment, unique to humans, begins at conception. Abortion then is immoral as God created life and only He can destroy it especially where human beings are concerned because they have a soul.

Further evidence for the strong SoL principle can be found in Exodus ‘Thou Shalt not murder’. Book of Job ‘God gave life, so he can take it away’.

The Weak SoL

This principle is more common within the Church of England.

The principle does not begin by asserting claims about God but rather recognises, there have been advances in medicine hence why the strong SoL argument is no longer suitable. They say that abortion is an extraordinary means (not something which happens all the time) hence can justify terminating a pregnancy. Further evidence to their approach is Jesus’ teaching of love and compassion. 

The Church of England will use this principle when dealing wit situations of rape or where there is threat to the mother’s physical or mental self.

Evaluation

Strengths

– It values all human life, promoting equality and human dignity.

– (Strong) Clearly states that abortion is incorrect in all situations. (Weak) The criteria of rape, damage to mother’s physical or mental self is arguably a clear method of working out whether abortion can be morally acceptable.

– Avoids ‘group’ pressure and power e.g. aborting all disabled babies

– A secular version of this principle (parallels with Kant) can be formulated which suggest that love and compassion should be given to all life and hence should be protected.

– Weak SoL combines all forms of Christian teachings.

Weaknesses 

– Equality – surely some forms of human life are more valuable than other e.g. Mother Teresa’s life is more valuable than Jack the Ripper. 

– It is a difficult and demanding to adhere too, for example, we cannot justify spending money on fertility treatment when we know the elderly and the sick can benefit from the money. Arguably, the theory is not meant for the real world and global politics.

– Strong SoL principle clashes with Jesus’ teachings of love and compassion.

– Weak SoL principle – Any situation can be argued that the pregnancy affects the mothers mental or physical self. Difficult to know true intentions of people.

– Isn’t quality of life more important than sanctity of life?

– If the Imago dei doctrine is wrong, which according to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection is, then so is the SoL principle.

– Peter Singer accuses advocates of SoL of specieism aren’t all life forms equal not just humans.

– Argument cannot cope with conflicts e.g. where only the mother or the child can survive.

– Outdated – not practical for a world where world population is exponentially growing.

– If we are made in the Image of God can we not destroy life like God?

Situation Ethics

Here is a short video on situation ethics – below are some more detailed notes!

Situation Ethics – Notes
  •  Situation Ethics is a relativist theory of ethics. The only principle which is used when determining morality in this theory is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.

 

  •  ‘Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13. This quote is just one example of how the new Testament promotes this idea that love is the best way to respond to everything.

 

  • Fletcher, an American Theologian, promoted this idea of situation ethics in an influential book written in the 60s.

 

  • Situation works by first look at individual situations and applying general principles to them. The key in this type of ethics is love.

 

  • In other words, whatever situation we are faces with we should do the most loving thing.

 

  • But what is love? There are 4 different types according to the Greeks: PHILOS -friendship, STORGE -family love, EROS- erotic love and AGAPE – selfless love.

 

  • The reason why Fletcher believed in situation ethics and dismissed Natural Law is because he believed the individual concerned is more important than the action and every situation should be judged according to its own context.

 

  • Situation ethics is a branch of Christian ethics. The Christian God is personal one therefore Situation Ethics claims that morality too should be person-centered and as far as the conscious is concerned it is used to formulate the decision in each circumstance. Decisions are made situationally!

 

  • Situation ethics is mid way between 2 extremes: ANTINOMIANISM – no rules, principles etc. which is a recipe for moral disorder and LEGALISM- rule based moral systems where rules become more important than people.
THE SIX PRINCIPLES OF SITUATION ETHICS
  1. Nothing is good in it self except AGAPE
  2. Jesus and St Paul replaced the torah with AGAPE
  3. Love and justice are compatible
  4. Love wills the goods of thy neighbor
  5. Love is the end that is sought – agape is a consequentialist ethic
  6. Love’s decisions are made according to each individual context.
Weaknesses
  • Dangers that we miss the big picture – immediate responses may not be the most loving thing in the long term.
  • It is not structured – there is no collective ethical framework.
  • Our emotions can cloud our judgement making it hard to see if we are acting out o f love.
  • What is the most loving thing to do for one person may not be the most loving thing for someone else.
  • Can human nature really allow us to act out of unselfish Christian love.