Contraceptives and sin

Discussion in 'Family, Relationships, and Single Life' started by Jellies, Jul 25, 2021.

  1. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I commend your fidelity to the historical record on this point. This is the kind of discussion we should be having, i.e., dealing with the tradition as it is, not as we might wish it to be. As a medical matter, my understanding is that quickening typically occurs about midway through pregnancy. Since the vast majority of abortions are performed during the first trimester, if we adhere to a quickening standard, none of those abortions are ‘murders’. Since this is substantially similar to what Judaism and Islam teach, we might even call this the ‘Abrahamic’ view. The Dharmic religions on the other hand tend to ban abortion completely, because of their beliefs about reincarnation and souls entering new bodies at conception.

    That being said, I think the more civilized approach to addressing the problem is to strive to remove the causes as much as possible. Women who have procured the procedure for one reason or another should expect sympathy and compassion rather than condemnation. Every time a woman feels that that is the answer, society has failed her, and bears some of the responsibility.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2021
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Even though that law didn't call it "murder," since it was punishable by death I fail to see the importance of the nuance.

    In the case of someone not being "quick with child" at the time, the punishment could include "at the Discretion of the Court, to be transported beyond the Seas". I was wondering if that meant, perhaps, being sent to Australia? :hmm:
     
  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    In biblical law it wasn’t punishable by death. It was treated as a property crime. In Blackstone’s day it wasn’t a death penalty offense in England either.
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I was addressing that law which Stalwart cited.

    Can you please cite the scripture which says what the punishment for abortion was, or that it was "treated as a property crime"?
     
  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Certainly. Here it is:
    This is as close as the Mosaic Law gets to directly addressing abortion. The famous lex talionis is in the verse immediately following the one quoted above. There are nearly identical laws in the Code of Hammurabi.

    Also, remember that the law cited by Stalwart only prescribed capital punishment for abortions procured in the post-quickening stage (approx. the latter half of the pregnancy). Pre-quickening abortions were not treated as capital crimes, but as misdemeanors. I am glad Stalwart brought this up, because such laws reflect what the dominant school of thought had been in Western Christianity throughout the later Middle Ages, leading up to the Reformation. What is nonetheless interesting in that regard is that the biblical law does not make any distinction between pre- and post-quickening. The offense itself is simply treated as a property crime against the woman’s husband (not the woman herself), and is punishable with a fine, rather than corporal or capital punishment, or banishment, without any specification of when it occurred in terms of the pregnancy itself. Only if the mother also died did it become a capital offense.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2021
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    "The heart of an embryo starts to beat from around 5–6 weeks of pregnancy"
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/when-does-a-fetus-have-a-heartbeat

    By the end of the first trimester the baby already has a brain, a recognizable face, fingernails, and intestines. That's already guilty-of-murder territory.

    By midway through the pregnancy the fetus can already survive in intensive care.
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    “Quickening” refers to the first feeling of movement of the foetus by the mother, which is typically at 18-20 weeks.
    https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=48890

    The medievals did not know about circulation of the blood and even if they had, there is no way they would have known when it began in the course of fetal development, since that’s not something the mother can perceive or would have known to expect during that time.
     
  8. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Almost no women know they are pregnant at 3 to 4 weeks. If quickening starts then then basically 100 percent of abortions are murder
     
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Quickening happens at around 18-20 weeks. I don’t personally subscribe to the quickening theory (of the beginning of personhood), for philosophical reasons, but for those that do, that would mean only those abortions procured during the latter half of pregnancy would be considered ‘homicides’. The catch is that the Bible never makes a distinction between the pre- and post-quickening periods and never treats the destruction of the foetus as a capital crime at all. It’s not murder.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2021
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Okay, thanks. I can see your point ab0out the punishment being a fine. The injury in such cases appears to be an accidental and unintentional one rather than abortion. It is worth noting that people who committed manslaughter had the opportunity to flee to a sanctuary city and escape punishment for as long as they stayed there (Numbers 35), so there definitely was a different standard set forth for accidental killings. Premeditated killings, on the other hand, are forbidden by the 6th Commandment and the punishment was death; willful abortion by a mother of her unborn child is a premeditated killing.
     
  11. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    I saw a different explanation of it here:https://www.str.org/w/what-exodus-21-22-says-about-abortion
    Basically it argues the translation is not talking about a miscarriage but about a premature birth and the child being born harmed.
    ““And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that the child comes forth, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life...”

    “There is no ambiguity here, whatever. What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (nepes) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus under this rule; he is avenged just as if he were a normally delivered child or an older person: life for life. Or if the injury is less, but not serious enough to involve inflicting a like injury on the offender, then he may offer compensation in monetary damages...”10

    I really doubt the Torah doesn’t treat abortion past the first heartbeat as a capital punishment. Imagine if someone did this to Mary and caused her a miscarriage while she was pregnant with Christ… God certainly views abortion as worthy of capital punishment, as we are made in his image. The fetus is as much in the image of the creator as you and I. The fact it is dependent on the mother for its life does not make it any less in the image of God. I am not saying it’s not permissible in every circumstance, such as an ectopic pregnancy, for example. Can you point to anywhere else in scripture where abortion is seen as deserving of anything less than capital punishment?
     
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  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I don’t think it’s that clear cut. For one thing, the law would presumably apply the same way if the pregnant women were one of the two people fighting, there being no other laws dealing with miscarriages. Lesser offenses in Exodus 21 are also assigned the death penalty. But there simply isn’t anything in Exodus (or the rest of the Torah for that matter) that would imply that the unborn foetus was thought of as anything other than the father’s property. And the death penalty applies if the mother dies; so on the assumption that it’s only meant to cover accidental cases, that would conflict with the rest of the chapter in which accidental homicides are not all treated as capital offenses. And bear in mind we aren’t reasoning about this in a vacuum. Orthodox Jews have been parsing these texts for the last two thousand years, and Jewish Law reflects the understanding I have described: Abortion - sinful in most cases, yes; murder, no.
     
  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    You make a very good point. Interesting article you linked to! Definitely worth reading. I've bookmarked it for further reference. :thumbsup:
     
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  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    You are assuming what you’re trying to prove. There is no evidence that “image of God” references played any role in the legislation of Exodus (nor is there any reason why it should have: the earliest chapters of Genesis were composed long after Exodus). There is also no evidence that the Hebrews in the OT period assumed any kind of body/soul dualism. There was no notion of a “soul” being present “from the moment of conception”. Those are post-biblical concepts derived from the Greco-Roman world that we habitually read back into the biblical texts, but that aren’t actually there. The Hebrews didn’t have modern knowledge of embryology or fetal development, and they didn’t think of death as “the separation of the soul from the body” or have any clear notions of an afterlife. People were born, lived, and died, and that was it, and the most that later commentators were willing to attribute to the Torah’s teaching on the subject was that an unborn foetus was a potential person and that while there should be some safeguards around pregnancy, for one to be terminated was not tantamount to murder. The only other time that anything approaching abortion is mentioned in the Torah is Numbers 5, where intentional miscarriage is prescribed as a punishment for adultery:
    There is simply no basis in either Exodus 21 or Numbers 5 for the conclusion that abortion is tantamount to murder. That is Roman Catholic revisionism at work and you will search in vain to find that view reflected in the earlier centuries of the Church or in Judaism.
     
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Moving away from Biblical and church principles for a moment, let's look at things from a purely secular standpoint.

    We live in a society which claims to acknowledge that all human life is sacred (indeed, some people go so far as to say that all life is sacred). Even from a secular standpoint there is a genuine question as to when human life begins. Is it at birth, at conception, when the baby first kicks, when the baby can survive outside the womb...? A rational answer would be, "We don't know for sure." Under this condition of unsureness, it seems most proper to err on the side of caution. After all, if human life is sacred, we wouldn't want to inadvertently end human lives in our ignorance, right? So it would seem most sensible to assume the worst-case scenario and ban abortion very early on, quite possibly as early as from the moment of conception, simply out of an abundance of caution.

    Instead, we have people who adamantly maintain that the right to abort is an innate right protected by the US Constitution. IOW they think they have the right to gamble that the embryo or fetus is not a human life but is merely a piece of the pregnant woman's own body to be disposed of at will (even though we lock up folks in asylums if they want to remove and discard their limbs or organs!). Some of these same people would demand incarceration of anyone who mistreated a dog or cat, yet they give little thought to the possible consequence of destroying that 'thing' in the belly (even if it has tiny arms, legs, and a beating heart). In what sane world does anyone play Russian Roulette with a possibly existent (and certainly, at the very least, a potential) human life for the sake of mere comfort, convenience, or financial concerns? :sick:

    In a decent, moral society, pregnant women would say to themselves, "I don't want to take a chance that I might be doing something to end another human being's existence; if I happened to kill a human being, even by accident or in ignorance, it would be awful!"

    But in our society, many pregnant women loudly proclaim, "It's my right to choose, and none of your #$%& business!" :furious:

    Sure, we can debate about exactly when in the gestation cycle a human life begins to exist. We can discuss it and speculate about it. But when the rubber meets the road, would you want to take even an outside chance of being wrong? Because the consequences of being wrong are doggone serious. :cry:
     
  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    From a secular standpoint, I’m not sure it matters “when life (or personhood) begins”. The issue is that in a modern, liberal (in the sense of “free”), secular society, individuals are (or ought to be) maximally sovereign over their own bodies. I’m not aware of any way to deny this principle without theorizing a fundamentally unfree society. The limits to this are whatever is established by common consent, i.e, democracy. Most (if not all) modern democracies restrict abortion rights in one way or another, in some ways more strictly than does the US. But those countries also generally do a far superior better job of addressing the underlying causes than the US does. I think ultimately once the process is allowed to work, the secular approach gets you to the same place or better, while being somewhat more permissive on the front end. I do not think it would be desirable for a national church to make those decisions, or to be ruled by religious rather than secular law. Our Constitution was the world’s first secular one, and as a conservative I’d like to keep it that way.
     
  17. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I think the problem here is making a distinction between Judaism and Christianity. I understand Jews believe, and this may postdate OT times, that the person is not ensoulled until the moment of birth. I think that has some impact on their modern approach to abortion.

    Abortion is an issue with which I struggle a great deal and I prefer to come down on the side of saying it is wrong. I think in some circumstances I could accept it. For example, if continuing a pregnancy put the woman's life at risk. I know what I would have favoured if my wife had ever been in such a precarious state. On the other hand I am most definitely against abortion as a matter of convenience. Also having disabled children in our family who are very much loved and valued as persons in their own right I would be against it because the baby may be born with disabilities.

    As for assigning the right of a human to an unborn embryo or foetus is a further struggle for me. As a biologist, although not one specialised in developmental biology, I fully understand that early in pregnancy that the developing embryo/foetus is unable to survive in its own right. Although I also strongly feel that the moral issues of abortion cannot be answered from science. Science can supply all the facts but the morality must be decided elsewhere.

    So for me it is a 'super-issue' but in the sense of how I struggle with where I sit on this issue and because of the many competing sources of information I have about it. Quite often, where possible, I take the ostrich view of the subject and stick my head in the sand.
     
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  18. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    If you expanded on this I may be able to revise my opinion, but taking what you said at face value I would have to disagree. Science can, of course, tell us what these things are. However, I think moral dilemmas are to be decided by other means. For example, physicists were able to create an atomic bomb. Whether atomic bombs should have been dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki are questions science cannot answer.
     
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  19. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It depends on what you mean by 'unique'. When a DNA profile, commonly, but misleadlingly, called a 'genetic fingerprint' is used in this way it is used, of course, to compare whether DNA at a crime scene is that of a suspect. The way we differ is the unique ways in which sequences of the five nucleotides in our DNA are arranged. When this is done it uses non-coding DNA, that is, sequences of DNA between genes. It may also not be unique because if you had a monozygotic (indentical) twin you would have identical DNA profiles. To distinguish whether you or your twin had committed a crime they would have to resort to the more old fashion fingerprint because those would differ.

    Only specific sequences of DNA can be said to be human. DNA itself cannot be unique to any living organism. All living organisms have DNA and its structure is the same in every living thing. How it differs is the way in which the nucleotides in the DNA are sequenced. As an analogy we only have 26 letters in English but we can arrange them in sequences to produce thousands of words.

    Again it comes down to definition. The embryonic heart starts to develop at around 3 weeks and there is a tube, not a fully developed heart, that can move blood around. Recent research has shown there is little organisation of heart cells until the 20th week of pregnancy.

    Clearly, you did not bother to read the Guardian article you cited. Test tube baby is a lay term that refers to in vitro fertilisation. This is where ova (egg cells) are fertilised with spermatozoa, which is actually done in a Petri dish and not a test tube. Scientists think they may have developed an articifical uterus (womb) but cannot test it because current law would prohibit it.
     
  20. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I find it troubling that there is no discussion of the soul here. All of the discussion centers around DNA, as DNA makes something human. A corpse shares 100% of the DNA with a human being, yet it’s not a human being.
     
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