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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972

The Sanctity of Life is Relative

The Sanctity of Life is Relative

When there is a conflict of values (such as the health of the mother versus the life of the foetus) a solution must be found which may be decided by quantitative (the greater good or the lesser evil) or qualitative (killing is always wrong) sets of values. It should be quite clear after a moment's thought that most English-speaking societies have very clearly opted for the quantitative position as attitudes on killing in self defence, war and the present New Zealand law on abortion illustrate. It is important to realise, however, that opponents of abortion law reform do not often adhere to a position of absolute sanctity of life, since most of them are not pacifists and many do not oppose the use of IUDs (intrauterine devices) as a form of birth control despite the fact that the IUD works not by preventing conception but by preventing implantation of the fertilised ovum. Moral purists might also claim that birth control by preventing life is a violation of the sanctity principle. Finally, the sanctity of life is in the end relative to what we are willing to pay for it. Our government for example, when allocating money for our hospitals, has in the end to say that certain roads are more important than, say, an artificial kidney machine for a particular hospital.