Religion and abortion

Religion and abortion

Many religious traditions have taken a stance on abortion, and these stances span a broad spectrum from acceptance to rejection. [ [ BBC "Religion and Ethics"] Be aware that these BBC pages do not cover all Protestant, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist beliefs.]


There is no single Buddhist view concerning abortion." [ Abortion: Buddhism] ." "BBC Religion & Ethics." Retrieved January 15, 2008. ] Those practicing in Japan and the United States are said to be more tolerant of abortion than those who live elsewhere.Barnhart, Michael G. (1995). [ Buddhism and the Morality of Abortion] . "Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 5." Retrieved August 10, 2006. ] In Japan, women sometimes participate in Mizuko kuyo (水子供養 — lit.) after an induced abortion or an abortion as the result of a miscarriage. The Dalai Lama has said that abortion is "negative," but there are exceptions. He said, "I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance"."Dreifus, Claudia. (November 28, 1993). "The Dalai Lama." The New York Times ]


There is no mention in the Christian Bible about abortion, and at different times Christians have held different beliefs about abortion. [ [ When Children Became People: the birth of childhood in early Christianity] by Odd Magne Bakke] For example, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory XIV believed that a fetus does not have a soul until "quickening," or when a woman begins to feel her fetus kick and move. [ [ Religious Tolerance] Therefore, abortion was not a serious sin. However, Pope Stephen V and Pope Sixtus V opposed abortion at any stage of pregnancy. [ [] ]

Historically, Fundamentalist (Evangelical) Protestant denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention supported abortion rights. [ [,M1 "They Kingdom Come"] pg. 15, a book by Randall Herbert Balmer, Professor of Religion and History at Barnard College.] It was not until 1980 that fundamentalist Protestants began to organize in opposition to abortion. [ [,M1 "They Kindgom Come"] pg. 12, a book by Randall Herbert Balmer, Professor of Religion and History at Barnard College.]

At this time, the Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Fundamentalist Protestant, and Roman Catholic denominations are against abortion. However, some of these denominations make exceptions in their doctrine for abortion performed to save the life of the mother, and in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. [ [ Ny Times] ] [ [ Religious Tolerance] ] Roman Catholics make no exceptions for the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest, arguing that the way conception occurs makes no bearing on the sin of abortion. [ [ American] ] The Roman Catholic Church does not condemn procedures which result, indirectly, in the loss of the unborn child as a "secondary effect." [ [ American] ]

Mainline Protestants, such as Episcopalians, Methodists, United Reformed, Quakers, those in the United Church of Christ, and Presbyterians are generally pro-choice, as are Unitarian Universalists. Many of these denominations are members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. [ [ Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice] ]


Hindus hold varying stances on abortion. Some Hindu theologians believe personhood begins at 3 and develops through to 5 months of gestation, possibly implying permitting abortion up to the third month and considering any abortion past the third month to be destruction of the soul's current incarnate body. Chapter 1: Dilemmas of Life and Death: Hindu Ethics in a North American Context | Date: 1995 | Author: Crawford, S. Cromwell] Other Hindus have found that abortion, especially the abortion pill, is a major step towards women's empowerment. [ [ The Hindu] : Online edition of India's National Newspaper]

According to the Hinduism Today website, "Several Hindu institutions have shared their positions on abortion recently. The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University does not take a formal unchanging political or religious stance on the issue of abortion. They advise that each case requires unique consideration... The Brahma Kumaris view the body as a physical vehicle for the immortal soul, and therefore the issue is not "pro-life" or "anti-life" but a choice between the amount of suffering caused to the souls of the parents and child in either course, abortion or motherhood." [ [ Hinduism Today] "Hindus In America Speak out on Abortion Issues"]

Other Hindu institutions oppose abortion, [ [ Hinduism Today] ] and teach that abortion prevents a soul in its karmic progress toward God. [ Feminism & Nonviolence Studies] | Date: 9/22/1998 | Author: Derr, Mary Krane; Murti, Vasu] According to the British Broadcasting Corporation website, "When considering abortion, the Hindu way is to choose the action that will do least harm to all involved: the mother and father, the foetus and society. Hinduism is therefore generally opposed to abortion except where it is necessary to save the mother's life... Many Hindus regard the production of offspring as a 'public duty', not simply an 'individual expression of personal choice' (see Lipner, "The classical Hindu view on abortion and the moral status of the unborn" 1989)." []


Among Muslims, abortion is acceptable depending on the circumstances around the pregnancy. In the case where the woman's life is threatened by the pregnancy, Muslim jurists agree that abortion is allowed based on the principle that "the greater evil [mother's death] should be warded off by the lesser evil [abortion] ." In these cases the physician is considered a better judge than the scholar. [ [] ]

Muslim scholars differ on when life begins. The medieval scholar Al-Ghazali writes that life occurs "when semen is injected into the womb where it merges with the ovum and becomes predisposed to receive life." [al-Ghazali. "al-Islam 'aqida wa shari'a", 3d ed. (Cairo: Dar al-Qalam, n.d.), 211-13.] 120 days is often seen as the point at which a fetus becomes fully human. This has been described as an angel coming and "breathing life into the fetus." Before this time, the fetus lacks a human soul, and is considered on the same level as plants and animals. [Musallam, B. (1990) "The Human Embryo in Arabic Scientific and Religious Thought" in G. R. Dunstan (ed.) "The Human Embryo" (Exeter : 1990)] Thus Hanafi, Shafi and Zaydi schools of thought permit abortion, though they hold that it is still "makruh" (detested by God) without a good reason. [Musallam, B. (1990) "The Human Embryo in Arabic Scientific and Religious Thought" in G. R. Dunstan (ed.) "The Human Embryo" (Exeter : 1990)] [ [] ]

On the issue of the life of the mother, Muslims universally agree that her life takes precedence over the life of the fetus. This is because the mother is considered the "original source of life," while the fetus is only "potential" life. [Bowen (2003), pg. 61, who attributes this to: Ebrahim, "Abortion", 19.]

Some Muslim scholars also argue in favor of abortion in early pregnancy if the newborn might be sick in some way that would make its care exceptionally difficult for the parents (eg. deformities, mental retardation, etc). Some scholars argue that abortion is allowed for important reasons in the first 40 days. Sheikh Nasr Farid Wasil extends this period to 120 days. [Chaim (2003), pg. 86] Ikrima Sabri, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, gave a ruling that Muslim women raped by Serb men during the Kosovo War could take abortifacient medicine. [Ikrima Sabri. "Fatwa shar'iyya hawla jarimat al-ightisab fi Kusuvu" (Jerusalem: Publications of Majlis al-Fatwa al-Ala, 25 April 1999).] [Quoted by: Chaim (2003), pg. 88]


In Judaism, views on abortion draw primarily upon the legal and ethical teachings of the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the case-by-case decisions of responsa, and other rabbinic literature. In the modern period, moreover, Jewish thinking on abortion has responded both to liberal understandings of personal autonomy as well as Christian opposition to abortion. [Jakobovits, Sinclair] Generally speaking, orthodox Jews oppose abortion, with few health-related exceptions, and reform and conservative Jews tend to allow greater latitude for abortion.


Although the Sikh code of conduct does not deal directly with abortion (or indeed many other bioethical issues), it is generally forbidden in Sikhism because it interferes in the creative work of God. [ [ BBC] ] Despite this theoretical viewpoint, abortion is not uncommon among the Sikh community in India, and there is growing concern that female fetuses are being aborted because of the cultural preference for sons. [ [ BBC] ]

ee also

*Abortion debate
*Abortion Law
*Religious views on birth control
*List of religions
*Christianity and abortion
*Judaism and abortion


External links

*the BBC's [ Ethics:Abortion] page

Religious organizations which oppose abortion

* [ Baptists for Life]
* [ Catholics United for Life]
* [ CEC For Life: International Communion of Charismatic Epsicopal Church]
* [ Embryo USA (Muslims for Life)]
* [ Evangelicals for Social Action]
* [ Hindu Perspective for Life]
* [ Jews for Life]
* [ Lutherans for Life]
* [ National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life]
* [ National Organization of Epsicopals for Life]
* [ National Pro-Life Religious Council]
* [ Orthodox Christians for Life]
* [ Pagans for Life]
* [ Presbyterians for Life]
* [ Priests for Life]
* [ The Rosicrucian Fellowship]
* [ The Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality]
* [ US Catholic Bishops ProLife]

Religious groups supporting legal abortion

Here is a partial list of religious groups that support legal abortion.
* [ American Ethical Union]
* [ American Friends (Quaker) Service Committee]
* [ American Humanist Association]
* [ American Jewish Committee]
* [ Catholics for a Free Choice]
* [ Central Conference of American Rabbis]
* [ Community of Christ]
* [ Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion]
* [ Jewish Reconstructionist Federation]
* [ Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice]
* [ Moravian Church in America-Northern Province]
* [ Na'Amat USA]
* [ National Council of Jewish Women]
* [ North American Federation of Temple Youth]
* [ Presbyterian Church (USA)]
* [ Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice]
* [ Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom]
* [ Summary of Sacred Choices]
* [ The Union for Reform Judaism]
* [ The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism]
* [ United Church of Christ]
* [ Unitarian Universalist Association]
* [ Women of Reform Judaism]
* [ Women's American ORT]
* [ United Methodist Church]

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