The SAGE Handbook of Healthcare Ethics is an influential collection of work by leading scholars on the fundamental and emerging themes which define healthcare ethics. This authoritative Handbook brings together experts with backgrounds in philosophy, sociology, law, public policy and the health professions and reflects the increasing impact of globalization and the dynamic advances in the fields of bioscience and genetics, which keep ethics at the centre of debates about the future direction of healthcare. Combining international and interdisciplinary perspectives, the Handbook provides a cutting-edge account of debates in five key areas: Health Care Ethics in an Era of Globalization; Beginning and End of Life; Vulnerable Populations; Research Ethics and Technologies; Public Health and Human Rights
Chapter 12: Abortion
Introduction and Historical Background
Abortion has always been morally problematic and has always been linked to the liberties and empowerment of women in general. The most ancient canon of Western medical literature, the Hippocratic writings, contains a prohibition on abortifacient drugs in its oath and a story about a doctor who induced abortion in a prostitute-slave upon the behest of her owner.
Opposition to abortion has often protected the life of women. Saint Basil condemned abortion as murder because of the destruction of the fetus and because ‘most women who make such attempts die’. The second century gynecologist Soranus wrote that the Hippocratic Oath forbade abortion because it endangers the life of women. The very same reading was shared by a late-nineteenth-century Iraqi rabbi (Barilan, 2009–10:154). ...