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Abortion the Pope and Peter Singer

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    Abortion is one of the most controversial issues today. It has become a question

    of not only ethics, but morals. In the 1973 case of Roe v Wade the Supreme Court ruled

    that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy by abortion within the first six

    months of the pregnancy. However, conservative Presidents have changed the legislation

    enough to allow states to restrict abortion in various ways (Practical Ethics, Peter

    Singer). In the following paper, I will summarize the views on abortion of Pope John

    Paul II and philosopher, Peter Singer. These two men have very conflicting opinions

    This argument is very adamantly against abortion. It is also a religiously based

    argument. He uses exerts from the Bible and other religious documents and quotes many

    different clergymen and priests to help defend his position.

    He starts by explaining how you must follow the ten commandments to live a

    good life and have eternal life. “Jesus replied, ‘If you would enter life, keep the

    commandments’” (Mt 19:17). The first of these ten commandments is “You shall not

    kill”. On the contrary, you should ‘love respect and promote life’ (The Gospel of Life,

    Paul II). In order to do this, one must carry out God’s plan of procreation with love and

    intentions to multiply. By having an abortion, one is doing the exact opposite. Not only

    are they killing an innocent human being, but they are killing a child of God. Also, man

    is not the final judge in matters such as life and death, he is only a ‘minister of God’s

    Paul II goes on to explain how human life is ‘sacred and inviolable’. Life is

    sacred because it is a gift from God and man was created in the image of God. God

    overlooks our lives from birth to death, and no one else has the right to destroy an

    innocent human being, especially one as innocent as an unborn child. Man is suppose to

    be the defender of the innocent, not the destroyer. He explains how the man who kills

    the innocent is one who has been deceived by the Devil, because only Satan delights in

    “You shall not kill” represents the extreme limit which cannot be exceeded. It is

    meant to encourage man to see life with respect and lead to the promotion of life with

    love. Along with the teaching that one shall not kill another, is this, as stated in the

    Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writing: “you shall not put a child to

    death by abortion nor kill it once it is born … The way of death is this: … they kill their

    children and by abortion cause God’s creatures to parish … they are filled with sin.” As

    time goes on, the Church will continue to teach the undeniable value on the first

    commandment. Even in the first centuries, murder was considered one of the three most

    serious sins. This should not come as a surprise. To kill something that was created by,

    and in the image of, God should be considered a serious sin.

    The most important case involving the first commandment of ‘You shall not kill’

    is when it refers to innocent human beings. This is especially so when it refers to

    defenseless, weak, human beings such as an unborn child or infant. The taking of an

    innocent life, especially at it’s beginning or end, is gravely immoral. This direct and

    voluntary action will always be regarded as morally evil and can never be considered as

    necessary, either as an end, or as means to a good end. “Nothing and no none can in any

    way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, and

    infant of an adult … no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for

    him/herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care … Nor can any authority

    legitimately recommend or permit such an action” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the

    Every innocent human being has a right to life. Every man, woman and child is a

    person worth protecting, not just an object to be used. Of all crimes possible, abortion

    and infanticide are defined as “unspeakable crimes” by the Second Vatican Council.

    When such crimes are accepted by much of the population and permitted by lawmaking

    bodies, it is a dangerous sign that the moral line between good and evil is getting

    obscured. This is especially dangerous because the right to life is at stake.

    The decision to have an abortion is often painful and tragic to the mother. Not

    only is she ridding herself of the fruit of life, but a part of herself, too. It may be that the

    mother’s health, or the child’s welfare after birth is a factor in this decision. However,

    “these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the

    deliberate killing of an innocent human being” (The Gospel of Life, Paul II). This

    decision is, in the end, completely up to the mother. But she may be influenced by many

    others on the way. The father of the child, either by coercing her or by leaving her alone,

    can lead her to such a decision. Also, the family and friends of the mother may be to

    blame. The blame is also put on the legislation which allows the abortion, foundations

    which encourage the legalization of abortion, and those who promote sexual behaviors in

    “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act

    which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in

    every heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (The Gospel of

    Throughout Pope John Paul II’s whole argument, he refers to a fetus as an

    innocent human being. Singer, however, does not agree that a fetus is a human being.

    He explains how there are stages to determine when a fetus becomes a human being.

    The earliest of these stages is the onset of consciousness, then comes quickening,

    Quickening is when the mother first feels the baby kick. Traditionally, this was a

    religious sign that the baby had a soul. Without such religious doctrines, quickening is

    not a strong dividing line to determine that the fetus is a human. Ultrasounds have shown

    that a baby makes movements not felt by the mother as early as six weeks after

    conception (Practical Ethics, Peter Singer). If movement constitutes life, then when are

    Viability is the stage of the pregnancy when the fetus can survive outside the

    womb. In most cases, this is at the beginning of the third trimester. But, in other cases,

    this may not be until the fetus is born, depending on the medical facilities available.

    Therefor, viability cannot distinguish between a fetus and a human being, because

    viability happens at a different time for each woman.

    Birth, obviously, is when the baby is born. This means that a fetus is not a human

    until it leaves the mother’s womb. But should the location of the fetus really matter? Do

    those few seconds, or in some cases, hours, while the baby moves down the birth canal

    make the distinction between a fetus and a human?

    Since none of these stages can determine when the fetus becomes a human being,

    there is no dividing line. Therefor, one cannot say whether a fetus is to be considered a

    human being, or just a fetus, and what rights to life this fetus has, if it is not a human

    Singer also believes that there is a difference between being a human being as a

    ‘member of the homosapien race’ and being a ‘person’. People are self-conscious, they

    have feelings about themselves and others. They have the ability to be rational and to

    make decisions. A person has interests and a desire to live. People are valuable. Is a

    fetus a person, or just a member of the homosapien race? If they don’t have these

    characteristics, in Singer’s view, they are not people. “Since no fetus is a person, no

    fetus has the same claim to life as a person” (Practical Ethics, Singer).

    This brings up the question of immoral actions. To commit an immoral action,

    you must be harming others. Harm to others is either physical or emotional. Emotion, or

    psychological harm is harm to one’s personhood. If a fetus has no personhood, and

    cannot feel pain, it cannot be harmed. Therefor, the act of killing a fetus, or having an

    abortion is not immoral. However, an abortion does take away the fetus’ potential for

    life. But this ‘potential life’ is different from the actual life.

    Paul II’s argument against abortion is based completely on religious morals and

    writings. The first commandment “You shall not kill” has no religious meaning to

    Singer. His whole argument shows the answer to the question of abortion “within the

    bounds of non-religious ethics” (Practical Ethics, Singer). Therefor, the arguments of

    Peter Singer, Practical Ethics
    Paul II, The gospel of life

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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