Abortion and the Definition of the Beginnings of Human Life

ABORTION AND THE DEFINITION OF THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMAN LIFE Until the 1970s, medical professionals, human rights groups, and birth control providers traditionally understood human life to begin at conception/fertilization: Hippocratic Oath The ancient Greek Hippocratic Oath – for thousands of years the standard for Western medical ethics – was routinely sworn by doctors upon medical school graduation. It states: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anyone if asked for it, now will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly, I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.” This last sentence has now been deleted from most medical school commencement ceremonies. American Medical Association For 125 years, the American Medical Association took a firm anti-abortion position, declaring in 1859 that abortion is the “unwarranted destruction of human life.” In 1871, the AMA denounced doctors who would perform abortions as “false to their professions, false to principle, false to honor, false to humanity, false to God.” But, in 1989, the AMA called abortion a “fundamental right,” to be decided “free of state interference” in the absence of compelling justification. World Medical Association Partially in response to revelations of medical war crimes at the Nuremberg Nazi trials, the World Medical Association in 1948 adopted a new physician’s code, the Declaration of Geneva, which stated: “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception.” This declaration was reaffirmed in the 1970 Declaration of Oslo. The United Nations The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, stated that a child “needs special safeguards and...