University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE


Abortion involves removing a developing foetus from its mother’s womb through chemical or physical means. For those who make the choice to have an abortion, the decision is usually based on the least bad option in a very bad situation. Not surprisingly then, abortion is a very emotive issue, which produces ferocious debate. At the centre of this is the question of when life begins. No one would deny that murder is morally wrong, so the matter of whether abortion is acceptable or not depends on when you consider that human life begins.

Ethical Dilemma:

Due to complications, Baby A has to be delivered at 25 weeks. He is not able to breathe on his own, and is put into an incubator and on to a ventilator in the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit. Mrs B comes to the antenatal clinic for a scan at 20 weeks of pregnancy. She can see her foetus in detail on the monitor: it is sucking its thumb, and she can see clearly that it is a boy. She is told that all is well.

Question. Should Baby A and Foetus B both be given the same protection in law?

Question. Is each a human being?

As soon as we see a newborn baby for the first time we are in no doubt that the baby is a person and as such must be nurtured and protected. Once born, the baby has as much protection in law as an adult. But babies can now survive after being born as early as 24 weeks of gestation (a normal pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks), and this causes ethical difficulties.

Next: Termination of Pregnancy


What's your opinion?

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NOT RATED Janet Gatehouse 09-07-08 08:29
The weblink for the task "foetal development post-implantation" isn't working (today).
NOT RATED BEEP Team 09-07-08 09:15
Thanks Janet,
I've temporarily removed that item while I find a replacement. Thanks for letting us know.
NOT RATED Georgie 16-10-08 18:50
In my opinion abortion is 100% wrong in all cases. There is never an instance where murder should be legal.

The moment of conception is the moment life begins. What makes us human? Our 46 chromosomes. From conception, a baby has 46 chromosomes, therefore it's human and has the right to live. Always.
Kitty 21-09-10 16:47
So if a girl of, say, 14 was raped by a family member, you think she should be forced to carry the child to birth? You think that's morally better than killing a tiny clump of cells?
NOT RATED Autumn Harms 13-01-15 04:49
yes,absolutely its morally better.even in those can always give up the baby to an orphanage. but I know all of you would say its more moral to kill than to give s/he up to better parents. 9 months out of your 50-80 year life. yes I understand that it will forever leave an impact but what about the impact of killing a baby? SERIOUSLY?! the only upside is that yall wont have the kids to influence in the same direction.
NOT RATED Autumn Harms 13-01-15 04:54
Sorry, in my opinion the only exception to abortion is if the pregnancy has a REASONABLE chance of being lethal.

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Activity: Consider this situation:

Kelly is nearly 17 and coming up to her exams. Things are quite tense at home, as Kelly’s parents seem to be going through a difficult time. She had been going out with her boyfriend for over a year but they recently split up. Kelly discovers that she is pregnant.

Question. What are Kelly’s options? What should she do? What would you do?