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Islamic ethics of life

One of the most ethical dilemmas that we are faced with in the present day revolves around the issue of abortion. Numerous strong arguments have been advanced both for and against abortion and it is important to note that the complexity of the argument lies in its different aspects. These range from who a person is to what rights are entitled to that person. Yet more difficult issues arise when considering when or at what stage an unborn baby is considered a person. The abortion debate also calls into question how much a woman has rights/sovereignty over her body.

Here, we look at the reasons advanced for the justification of abortion, which are mostly from a moral point of view because in the strictest sense, abortion is uncalled for. The Roman Catholic Church is the staunchest supporter of abortion as it argues, principally, that abortion should not be used as a form of birth control or as a means of dealing with the consequences of promiscuous sex. Some aspects of this emotive issue convince most people that abortion is justified but when combined with other intertwining aspects, it becomes impossible to justify fully.

Ultimately, choice rests with an individual and as with the many ethical issues that we are faced with in life, it is hard to fully comprehend the situation until faced with it. Knowledge of the aspects involved is vital to form the basis of sound decision making when and if necessary. Pro Abortion Right Abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy that leads to the death of the expelled fetus or embryo. This can in some cases, however, happen on its own.

Legally and culturally, abortion views vary substantially the world over and this debate stirs up emotions as there are no fence sitters here. Despite intense rhetoric on both sides of the divide, many people agree that while all abortions are regrettable, some are morally reasonable and some are not (Devettere 356). One can argue that it would be morally reasonable in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. This happens when an embryo implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus as is the norm. It is also known to attach to an ovary or to the cervix.

As a result of this, the growing fetus poses a danger to the pregnant woman and it is then viable to terminate the pregnancy. This practice is widely accepted even to those who oppose abortion as it is easy to accept in the light of reason. The Roman Catholic Church, however, still opposes the termination of ectopic pregnancies and this ban has been in effect since 1902. Theologians devised the ‘principle of double effect’ in the 1930s to go around this problem. It involved removing the site where an ectopic pregnancy had occurred.

This was both good and bad because while the danger had been removed, the woman lost her uterus and with it the chance of ever giving birth again. To theologians, this was not abortion per se as they had not attacked the fetus but the site of the occurrence of that type of pregnancy. Medically, this view is seen as being retrogressive. Another instance when abortion would be justified would be when a woman using fertility drugs or who has undergone a fertility procedure becomes pregnant with more than one fetus and perhaps as many as seven.

This is commonly referred to as Invitro-fertilisation (IVF). A woman’s chances of risk increases proportionately with the number of fetuses being carried and the chances of pre-mature births are also high. Ethically, everything possible should be done to preserve life but this scenario presents a moral dilemma to health physicians. Knowing the damage that can result to the pregnant woman’s health due to having seven fetuses leads right thinking physicians to think of the best way to reduce damage and an obvious option is to abort some of them.

This is done with the intent of giving the remaining fetuses and their mother a realistic chance of survival. Again, many including those opposed to abortion agree that this is the best course of action in the prevailing situation as ethics of right reason indicates that life can be better cherished this way. The moral angle of this justification becomes even more acute in a situation where someone would want to do away with a fetus in the case of triplets. The reasons for wanting to do so here would be weaker as compared to the earlier scenario.

Once it is discovered early in the pregnancy that the fetus has a serious defect, the question of abortion then arises. There is little sense in continuation of a pregnancy for months with the knowledge that what awaits the fetus is suffering and an early death (Devettere 358). Good reasons can be advanced as to why it is not moral to kill a healthy fetus but the same cannot be said of a grossly defective fetus. Ethically, the question put forward is what constitutes a serious defect in a fetus.

Medically, fetuses with genetic defects known as trisomy 13 or trisomy 18, Anencephaly and Hydrocephalus are considered serious enough to lend credence to the idea of abortion. In Anencephaly, the affected child is void of a brain or most of it and chances of being born dead are very high. Even if born alive, death soon follows. Hydrocephalus is a condition where the baby’s brain is filled with water. The baby also has to be born by caesarian section to further alleviate the risks that are present to the mother. Supporting abortion in such instances is thus plausible.

Conservatives argue that even a fetus with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has a right to life and presumably to an AIDS death (Murphy 36). Liberals on the other hand tend to cite how the infant will be a drain on medical resources and they may find abortion of fetuses in AIDS related pregnancies warranted. Additional reasons for justifying abortions in AIDS related pregnancies include the right not to be pregnant if one doesn’t choose to be. This is especially relevant when a rape has preceded the pregnancy and subsequent AIDS infection.

The woman could also choose to end the pregnancy because of the psychological stress involved. Given the odds against a healthy pregnancy especially in the 1990s when anti-retroviral therapy had not appeared on the scene, pregnancies used to pose a threat by accelerating the AIDS infection in the mother. Today, advances in medicine have seen both mother and child live fully and cope well with the disease. While back then it could be said to be moral to carry out abortions due to the AIDS scourge, the same moral argument would not hold in present day.

Rape, as stated in the preceding paragraph, could on its own stand as a valid reason for justifying abortion. This is because in light of the tragic events that precede, the mental health of a woman who becomes pregnant as a result can best be safeguarded by taking this option. This is attributed to the fact that the resultant pregnancy is a gross violation and the victim is not obliged to carry the fetus to term. This can serve as a source of agony of the injustice carried out if the woman had to carry the fetus for nine months.

Here, the mental health of the mother takes precedence over the fetus’ welfare. Others view the fetus as an aggressor against the woman’s integrity and personal life and morally, an aggressor should be repelled and even killed so as to defend personal as well as human values. Another common cause that is used to legally justify abortion is mental illness in the mother. According to Steinberg and Rosner (20), more than 85% of abortions in Canada are justified on the grounds of mental illness with psychologists being involved in only 10% of the decisions.

Judgment and recommendation is not always reliable in psychiatric consultations. This is because it is mostly subjective and cannot be scientifically verified. Abortion has also been historically justified by the financial inability to afford a wet-nurse for the baby when the mother found out that she was pregnant again. Medieval jurisprudence points to abortion being carried out on a slave’s child so as to avoid the subsequent obligation toward the slave mother who could not be sold and the child would have to be freed (Brockopp 72).

Abortion is also justifiable when there are medical conditions such as cancer that pertain to the mother’s health. For starters, cancer cannot be treated when a woman is pregnant due to the various radiation regimes that a sufferer is exposed to. Aggressive cancer which would be fatal if left untreated provides sufficient grounds for justification. In this case, forcing the woman to bear a child when in the course of the pregnancy her own health would be severely compromised is not realistic.

Besides the woman’s predicament, her husband, children, relatives and friends ought to influence that decision. Ultimately, the decision to end a pregnancy is much more than simply what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by any religious or ethical code. What cannot be ignored is the different circumstances that occur in real life. An evolved society and one that champions the right to life ensures that everything possible is done to avoid unintended pregnancies but makes safe, legal abortions available to all women in the event that it is required. Works Cited Brockopp, Jonathan.

Islamic ethics of life: abortion, war and euthanasia. South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. Print. Devettere, Raymond. Practical decision making in health care ethics: cases and concepts. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press, 2000. Print. Murphy, Julien. The constructed body: AIDS, reproductive technology and ethics. New York: SUNY Press, 1995. Print. Steinberg, Avraham and Rosner, Fred. Encyclopaedia of Jewish Medical ethics: a compilation of Jewish Medical law on all topics of medical interest. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 2003. Print.

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