Imperatives of the Gospel and imperatives of the South African Constitution regarding the right to life: a Christian ethical perspective
Giles, Stephen Paul
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This study presents divergent views and approaches to the issues of the right to life, abortion, and HIV/Aids prevention in South Africa. The right to life, and abortion, considered from the constitutional perspective, acknowledge the presence of human life in utero from conception to parturition, but do not presently deem that unborn human life imperatively worthy of legal protection. Failure to take account of developments in international jurisprudence, notably in the United States, regarding the separate legal personality of the unborn child, other than that presently accorded by the nasciturus fiction, means that the issue of abortion continues to be viewed Solely from the point of view of the woman's wellbeing and her right.to terminate her pregnancy. From a Christian ethical perspective, abortion is seen as a violation of the constitutional imperative right to life. As imago Dei, the unborn child is a bearer of this unqualified right from conception to birth to death and has a categorical claim to life no different to that of its mother. From a constitutional perspective, HIV/Aids prevention forms part of the constitutional right to health care. Due to legitimate constraints on financial, material, and human resources in health service provision, and other lawful demands contending for these resources, the approach to HIV/Aids prevention is predominantly utilitarian, resulting in a cost-effective approach to treatment and prevention that may jeopardise the welfare of those directly and indirectly affected by this pandemic. From a Christian ethical perspective, the response to HIV/Aids treatment and its prevention is an imperative obligation on Christ's disciples, both individually and as the Church, and not without cost, towards the multitudinous bearers of God's image directly and indirectly affected by the disease. This study examines the degrees of divergence and of congruence between the constitutional unqualified right to life and the current interpretation of the impact of that right on abortion and HIV/Aids prevention, in contrast to the Gospel imperatives of discipleship, in this case, "Follow me", "Love God, and your neighbour as yourself", and "Take up your cross", and their impact on the right to life, abortion, and HIV/Aids prevention. The conclusion of this study is, that from a Christian ethical perspective, whilst recognising the Constitution as the framework sine qua non in which Christ's disciples are called to live out their commitment to Christ and his Gospel in South Africa, Gospel imperatives, which like constitutional imperatives are concerned with life and attitudes to life, ultimately have primacy over constitutional imperatives.
- Theology