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Abortion is morally justifiable

By Peter Bowden - posted Tuesday, 5 January 2021

This paper argues that abortion is morally acceptable, and will set out two convincing reasons to that effect. It also sets out a number of comments by well-known writers on this controversial issue.

First we must ask why do anti-abortionists argue that it is wrong. There is no explicit statement about abortion in the Old Testament or the New Testament versions of the Bible .Then why do Catholics, and many Christian fundamentalists, oppose abortion?

The Church teaches that human life is created and begins at the moment of conception. The Catholic Church sees abortion as the termination of an unborn life, and therefore, it is wrong.


Many believe that we are created in God's image, and for this reason, we cannot kill the foetus. Psalm 139:13-16 states "You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother's womb. For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders."

Even pregnancies that result from rape, incest, and present a danger to the life of the mother are not reasons for abortion. The church allows that if the woman - who is considered an innocent victim - can get treatment as soon as possible, within the 24 hours apparently required for the sperm to reach the egg, to try to prevent conception from occurring immediately after the rape or incest.

In any case, why is killing a person, or a foetus, wrong? Thou shalt not kill is the sixth Commandment given by God to Moses about 1440 B.C. We then need to ask ourselves why God, or Moses if it was he who wrote the ten commandments, decided that killing was wrong

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator. 1 Corinthians 11:7 tells us that we are created in the image of God: For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is God's image and glory.

The case of Argentina, a strongly Catholic country, which recently legalised abortion, should be mentioned. The Pope, who is Argentinian, objected to the bill. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also objected: "I deeply regret for the lives of Argentinian children, now subject to being ended in the bellies of their mothers with the State's agreement." Bolsonaro is far right, however, whereas the incumbent Argentine government in Argentina is to the left.

Supporters of the Argentine bill said the bill also sought to eradicate the clandestine abortions that have caused more than 3000 deaths in the country since 1983, according to official figures. This is one additional reason for supporting legalised abortion – to reduce the harm done by backyard abortions.


But if we are not entirely sure that there is a god, and therefore remove the religious reason, why then is it wrong to kill? Two reasons are offered: One is that we cause grief to those close to the killed person, to his/her family, and that is a wrong. This probably was Moses' major underlying reason (if he wrote the ten commandments).

In this first case, the mother-to-be is the closest relative. The decision to abort may be a difficult one, but it is her decision. If she makes the decision, then it is hers alone. She is the person closest to the unborn child.

Clearly also, if a child is not wanted, it is preferable to terminate as a foetus. It is the lesser of two harms.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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