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Term Paper Sample (Excerpt)
Within recent years various Protestant denominations have issued policy statements in support of the reform of abortion statutes. Neither Jews nor Protestants try to set an exact moment when the fetus has a soul. In Jewish theological writing the fetus is thought to be part of its mother and not a person until it is born. For example, in the religious conversion of a pregnant woman, her unborn child is automatically included in the conversion and requires no further ceremony. The embryo is not believed to be a "living thing" until the full nine-month gestation period is complete. Thus, because it is not a "living thing" until it is born, abortion is not considered a crime.
Though there is some disagreement about when the soul enters the fetus, for most Jewish theologians this has no bearing on the practical, earthly issue of abortion. They consider the moment of ensoulment as belonging to those "secrets of God." The soul's immortality and the moment it enters the fetus is not, for them, relevant to the problem since, they say, abortion does not affect the soul. As David M. Feldman describes it in his book Birth Control in Jewish Law: "Before birth the embryo is not a person; from the moment of birth and on, it is; the disposition of the soul, being pure to begin with, is unaffected. The Jewish and Catholic doctrines have once again parted company."
The Japanese Shinto religion also holds that the fetus is human only when it is born. Since theological dialogue influences the Church's position at any given time, and since this position can be changed, the moral argument about abortion rages today with greater intensity than ever between those who would change the Church's attitude toward abortion, and those who believe the current attitude is the right one. The crux of the debate is still the question of when the fetus becomes a human being with a legal, moral, ethical and medical right to life which cannot be taken away by anyone including his mother. The viewpoint expressed by Catholic theologians is that since no one can say at what moment the fetus has received a soul, killing it at any point before birth, no matter how soon after conception, is nothing short of murder. Others, including some Catholics, say that abortion should be legal until the baby is able to support itself outside the womb.
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