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The Christian church generally endevers to follow the teachings of the bible, however as different interpretations and moral viewpoints arise, divisions in opinion soon emerge. The Roman Catholic and Church of England, as with many other subjects, have very different views on abortion and interpretations of Bible references relating to the issue. Many Christians believe that direct abortion is always wrong, since it is a direct attack against human life and against Gods wishes and stick to the sixth commandment which prohibits murderous acts.However, under certain circumstances, some can morally justify indirect abortion. An abortion is indirect if a good effect is intended, for example, saving the life of the mother, and the bad effect, namely, the killing of the foetus, is not. The Church of England sees directly killing the foetus in order to save the mother as the lesser of two evils, were as the Roman Catholic Church condemns abortion under all circumstances and believes that life should be left in the hands of God and that it is his to give, as it is his to take away.There are some Christians who believe the Bible says nothing about abortions. In one sense this is true. There is no direct teaching that says ‘You shall/shall not allow a woman to have an abortion’ despite the fact that abortions did happen in biblical times. Weather it is morally, ethically or religiously acceptable has to be decided on individuals own interpretations of biblical references and beliefs.CatholicThe Papal Encyclical Casti Conubii written by Pope Pius XI on Christian Marriage December 31, 1930 states that abortion is wrong.”To bring about the death of the mother or the child is against the voice of nature and the commandment of God. (God being the creator is responsible for the laws of nature…God gives life, only God has the authority to take it away.).”It also points out that it is against the fundamental commandment that “thou shalt not kill”The Papal Encyclical also states that,”The life of each (mother and child) is equally sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it.”All of these arguments really rest on the keen debate over the moment that the human embryo/foetus becomes fully human (i.e. when, according to Christian teaching, it has both body and soul). The Catholic Church teaches that this ensoulment takes place at the moment of conception and this is a key reason for their refusal to condone abortion under any circumstances.B. Haring, in Medical Ethics, points out that at the moment of conception, then the ovum is fertilised, a unique genetic code is fixed and therefore it becomes a potential life. Catholics regard this potential life as a human with all the rights befitting it.Genesis 1v27:’God created humans in his own image,In the image of God he created them,Male and female he created them.God blessed them and said to them;”Be fruitful and increase.”‘A Christian would use these verses as a guideline for abortion because these verses suggest that if a human was killed, the image of God would also be killed. The passage also implies that reproduction is a blessing, and was an order from God which should be obeyed by all humanity. The verse begins with the information that God created humans and this is the most important factor of all, that we are God’s creations and we have no right to kill others whom he created. This is illustrated again later in the book of Psalms:Psalms 139 v 13,15.”You created every part of me,You put me together in my mothers womb,When I was growing in secret,You knew that I was there.You saw me before I was born.”These verses emphasise the Christian view about creation, that God created everything and that no human has the authority to destroy something which only God has really seen and knows.Another key factor is Natural Law, which Catholics believe, shows that the natural consequence of the woman becoming pregnant, determined by God, is to give birth, which is also why they also disallow contraception.’By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors, and in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.’ (Papal Encyclical 1995)Roman Catholics are totally against abortion”The direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth”Papal Encyclical 1968Abortion is a sin in all cases”We have been created by god in his own image and likeness. No pregnancy is unplanned, because no baby can be conceived unless God intends that conception and has willed that unique new person into existence”Catholic Truth SocietySince the purpose of sex is for reproduction then in a Catholic view there should be no need for abortion whatsoever. Sexual intercourse should also only be carried out in wedlock and so there should be parents present and able to support the child so the excuse that there are no means to support the child is not valid in their eyes and they would also say that God would support them anyway. The pregnancy has been instigated by God and a destiny has been planned by God for the unborn infant.. The only other reason for wanting an abortion, namely for a medical condition threatening either the mother or the child’s health. This in Catholic views is all part of Gods plan and it is not are part to intervene.Church of EnglandThe Church of England does not take such a hard line as Catholics in the abortion debate. It accepts that there are certain situations when abortion is an unavoidable consequence of deciding between the ‘lesser of two evils’, as mentioned before (E.g. Accepting that a woman who becomes pregnant after being raped might want an abortion). Thus they generally support a form of “Situation Ethics”.’The Church believes the demand for abortions is unacceptably high. It stresses that abortion should happen as early in the pregnancy as possible and only after serious moral reflection. Its view on late terminations (after 24 weeks) of handicapped foetuses is that they should only be given if the baby is likely to die from its deformities soon after birth.’ (The Church of England)Some Christian’s arguments against abortionChristians who argue against abortion on the basis of Scripture (the Bible) use a number of verses that seem to teach that God knows and plans the life of a person before they are born. In the Psalms David wrote:’For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)The Prophet Jeremiah spoke similar words:’The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)Even Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that God had a plan for the baby (Jesus) she was going to have (‘He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High’ (Luke 1:32 NIV)) and John ‘lept in the womb’ when Mary came to visit Elizabeth (his mother – Luke 1:41).From this it is argued that God knows each human and has a plan for each of us that is shaped and formed in the mind of God even before we are born. Human life begins at conception so abortion is wrong.The strongest biblical evidence used against abortion is the prohibition to commit murder (Exodus 20:13). Christians against abortion believe the embryo/foetus is human and should be give full human rights. Anyone taking away its life is committing a grievous act of disobedience against God (they are committing murder) and are putting themselves on a level with God who alone gives life and takes it away.’… because he himself gives all [people] life and breath and everything else’ (Acts 17:25 NIV)’… when you take away their breath they die and return to the dust’ (Psalm 10:29 NIV)’… and the dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV)’You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born’ (The Didache – early Christian manual).Although no direct references are made in the Bible scriptures, Christian manuals and religious documents can be found which renounce abortion.’When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers… what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour’ (Psalm 8:3-5 NIV)Some Christian arguments for the right to choiceChristians who argue a pro-choice position do so by first showing that the Bible does not specifically teach anything about abortion. They also claim that the verses that those arguing a pro-life position use to argue against abortion are merely specific references to individual people and situations (E.g. King David, the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus). They are specific rather than general teachings concerning the birth process for all people. Furthermore, pro-lifers are accused of taking biblical poem (or songs) too literally. This is a problem particularly associated with taking verses out-of-context.The problem with seeking texts to argue against abortion is particularly difficult when the command ‘Do not murder’ is used to support an anti-abortion stance. Difficulties arise when we see that in certain instances God actually commanded the Israelites to kill their enemies and take possession of their land (E.g. the Canaanites). Thus ‘Do not murder’ seems to be a situational commandment.There is one passage in the Bible that seems to touch specifically on the issue of abortion. In Exodus 21:22-25 we read:’If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.’ (NIV).The interesting point here is that it is only if the woman dies from her injuries that murder is deemed to have taken place. The premature birth (abortion) of the baby is not condemned. ‘Do not murder’ given a few moments earlier (of course one could argue that the phrase, ‘she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury’ means the baby survived).This is, however, another case in which translation of the Bible could have lead to its true meaning being lost. Another, older, translation I found reads,”If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.”And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . .”–Ex. 21:22-25, if a woman has a miscarriage as the result of a fight, the man who caused it should be fined. If the woman dies, however, the culprit must be killed. The bible orders the death penalty for murder of a human being, but not for the expulsion of a foetus.One criticism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion (and contraception) is that it encourages an irresponsible attitude towards having children and does not take in to account the ability parents to fully care for them. Quality of life is important for both the future child as well as the parents.’… most women who have an abortion have just made the most difficult decision of their life. No one thinks abortion is a wonderful thing. No one tries to get pregnant just so they can terminate it.’ (Taken from ‘Why Abortion is Moral’)There is also reference in the Mosaic law to what is now called “abortion on request” Num. 5:11-31 indicates that if a husband suspects his wife is pregnant by another man, the “husband shall bring his wife to the priest,” who shall mix a drink intended to make her confess or be threatened with termination of her pregnancy if she has been unfaithful to her husband.Aside from these passages, the Bible does not deal with the subject of abortion.A key question in the abortion controversy is, “When does human life begin?’ The Bible’s clear answer is that human life begins at birth, with the first breath. In Gen. 2:7, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (in some translations, “a living soul”). The Hebrew word for human being or living person is nephesh, which is also the word for “breathing.” Nephesh occurs hundreds of times in the Bible as the identifying factor in human life. We follow the biblical tradition today by counting age from the date of birth rather than from conception. The state issues birth certificates, not conception certificates.The question of whether abortion is right or wrong is entirely down to a person’s interpretation of the Biblical references. References can be taken out of context to give justification to almost any action. There is such a mass of conflicting statements that it is really down to weather you take every word literally, like the Catholics, or allow for some flexibility, like the Church of England.

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