So usually when I write a post I take great pains to point out that abortion need not be a religious issue. In fact abortion can happily be refuted without having to mention *any* form of religious view or text. Today however I thought that I would reach out to the theists of the world and express why they too should consider abortion wrong.
So without further ado, here comes the teachings of the three largest religions on earth (Christianity, Islam or Hinduism – I’m picking only three because of time constraints).
Let’s start with some Bible verses on the subject –
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
This is no where near the end of the quotes. I’m sure one could almost literally be buried in them ..
Jesus Himself foretold a time of trouble and grief, when women with children would wish they had none. Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.” [Luke 23:27-30]
Livermore’s commentary says: “This passage, filled with inimitable pathos and sublimity, is found only in Luke. Our Saviour evidently refers here to the impending calamities of Jerusalem – ‘Fall on us’, &c. Rev. vi, 16. Vivid imagery, to express that death would be preferable to life.” [The Four Gospels: With a Commentary, By Abiel Abbot Livermore, 1844. p. 172]
Some say it was fulfilled in some way during the siege of Jerusalem, when people sought refuge in the caves and sewers under the city. But who really says this to the mountains and hills? No one says that! Not literally, and no normal person talks to mountains and hills. The mountains, hills, and rocks have no ears! I don’t think people were saying: “fall on us!” to the mountains and hills, during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. This saying of Jesus was a prophecy, a metaphor. It is quoted from Hosea 6:10, and it is also mentioned in Revelation 6:15-17.
In Revelation, John shows that not only the women of Jerusalem, and the Jews, but all the men of the earth, from the least to the greatest, hide themselves in the dens and caves of the mountains, and call on the rocks to ‘fall on them’, and ask the hills to cover them!
Interpreting this prophecy, the mountains and hills of Israel were part of the land that God promised Abraham, and so ‘mountains’ represent the promises of God, that believers inherit through faith in Jesus Christ, which includes the promise of eternal life! Men and women hiding themselves in the dens of the mountains pictures people seeking salvation. They want to be there. As the song says, “Oh when the saints… go marching in… I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!”
People don’t want to get killed, they want to be “saved”, and “covered” by the promise of God to His saints! Many have their children baptized; Jews have their male babies circumcised, and many Muslim male babies are named Mohammad. People attend a church, or a synagogue, or a mosque, but even if they don’t, they usually retain their religious affiliation or label. Few are atheists. Some even get buried near a church, or synagogue. For centuries, Jews have buried their dead on the Mount of Olives, expecting some benefit at the resurrection. Most people accept the faith they were born into, fearing the consequences of not doing so, and the judgment to come.
By his death, Jesus provided the solution to the problem of death for those who come to him. Paul wrote, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” [Romans 5:8-9]
Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd, who gives his life for the sheep. He said, “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” [John 10:1 & 9]
Additionally, for those of you that are Catholic, you might want to read this quote attributed to a great mystic of the Church, Marthe Robin. (Regardless it’s certainly something to think about) –
“The prophecy the the Apocalypse, concerning the death of two thirds of the human race, does not refer to an atomic war or any other catastrophe, but to a spiritual death.”
Additionally, no such discussion could leave out Humane Vitae which makes the Catholic Church’s anti abortion stance pretty clear.
Islam values human life. This is clearly expressed in the Qur’an where we are told that in the sight of God killing a human is a very serious matter (see Qur’an 5:32). The Qur’an teaches that on the Day of Judgement parents who killed their children will be under trial for that crime, and their children will be witnesses against them (see Qur’an 81:8-9).
People often fear that having more children will make them poor. In reply to that, the Qur’an says:
Do not slay your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them and for you (Qur’an 17:31).
Even in a case where one is already poor, the Qur’an insists that Allah will provide sustenance for us and for our children, and furthermore that Allah has made human life sacred (see Qur’an 6:151).
The right to life is God-given. No human should take away that right. The general rule, therefore, is that abortion is not permitted in Islam. However, Islam is a very practical religion. It includes principles to deal with exceptional cases. One such principle is that when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, an abortion may be performed. Although the lives of both mother and child are sacred, in this case it is better to save the principal life, the life of the mother. Even in this case, it would be better if the abortion is done before the foetus is 120 days old, for that is when the soul is breathed into the foetus. Islam does not permit abortion in other cases.
Women who have been victims of rape or incest naturally deserve sympathy and help. But a child conceived in this unfortunate manner still has a right to live. Of course this places an unwanted burden on the mother, but killing the child is not the right solution. To understand this point better, suppose someone sees the poorer sections of society as an unwanted burden on the rich. Would it be right then to kill off all the poor? Of course not. Why then should anyone decide that a child should be killed just because they are an unwanted burden? Society as a whole should help such a mother and relieve her as far as possible. But the child should not be killed.
Furthermore, the fact that such cases occur is an indication that people desperately need spiritual food. They need the pure teachings that will help them turn their minds away from adultery, rape, and incest. People need God. Can you help someone to turn to God?
If you thought perhaps relief was coming from the onslaught of anti abortion teachings .. well I fear you wont find it here. If anything Hindism is even more ‘prolife.’
Hinduism is an ancient religion practiced by hundreds of millions in India and abroad. One commentator describes it as
…more than just a creed: it is a total culture, a way of life based on the belief in the unity of all creation. Hindus, like Buddhists, see humankind not as an entity separate from animals, but rather as an integral part of the universe that includes all living creatures. Although Hinduism is well known for considering cows to be holy, in Hindu doctrine, all living creatures, including insects, plants, and trees, are thought to enjoy a kinship with one another and to be worthy of respect and life. (1)
According to Nine Beliefs of Hinduism, a tract published by the Himalayan Academy of San Francisco: “Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, or nonviolence.” All life is sacred because all creatures are manifestations of the Supreme Being.
The Hindu practice of nonviolence is connected to a belief in reincarnation: the repeated re-embodiment of souls in different species of life. The karma generated in one’s present life determines whether one enjoys a higher or suffers a lower existence in the next reincarnation. Dr. T. K. Venkateswaran, a Hindu leader in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, writes that karma is “the moral and physical law of cause and effect by which each individual creates one’s own future destiny.” Hinduism teaches that there are 8,400,000 species of life, beginning with the microbes, rising through the fish, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, and animals to the humans and gods. According to their desires, living entities perpetually take birth in these species. These transmigrations are directed by the mind propelling the soul to newer and newer bodies. As Dr. Venkateswaran notes, “All souls are evolving and progressing towards union with God….The individual soul reincarnates, evolving through many births and deaths, until all the karmic results, good and bad, are resolved.” (2)
Hinduism teaches that abortion, like any other act of violence, thwarts a soul in its progress toward God. Why does the Hindu community seem silent on the abortion issue? Dr. K. S. Krishnan of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Kerala, India, offered this explanation for the apparent silence: “Personally, I feel that a sannyassi [monk] should have no chance of discussing the private life of a lady. That can only happen when a lady approaches him to become a disciple.” (3)
Nevertheless, Hindu scriptures and tradition have from the earliest of times condemned the practice of abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger. Hinduism teaches that the fetus is a living, conscious person needing and deserving protection. Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garha-batta (womb killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul). A hymn in the Rig Veda (7.36.9, RvP, 2469) begs for protection of fetuses. The Kaushitaki Upanishad (3.1 UpR, 774) draws a parallel between abortion and the killing of one’s parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) remarks that the fetus slayer, or brunaghni, is among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2). (4)
In modern times, India’s greatest apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi, has written: “It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.” (5) The international periodical Hinduism Today acknowledges: “Across the board, Hindu religious leaders perceive abortion at any stage of fetal development as killing (some say murder)…and as an act that has serious karmic repercussions.” For example, Swami Kamalatmananda of the Ramakrishna Monastery in Madras, India, has said: “No human being has the right to destroy the fetus. If having a baby is economically and socially problematic, one can very well take precautions to avoid such unwanted birth rather than killing the baby. Precaution is better than destruction.” (6)
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is India’s greatest scholar, philosopher, cultural ambassador, author, and spiritual leader. His teachings on the subject of abortion are very clear:
They are killing the baby in the womb. How cruel! In this age of unwanted population, man is losing his compassion. When you kill a living entity, even an ant, you are interfering with its spiritual evolution, its progress. That living entity must again take on that same life form to complete its designated life term in that body. And the killer must return to pay for damages.(7)
Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada has written:
You are killing innocent cows and other animals–nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They’ll fight among themselves. It is going on. Why? This is nature’s law. Tit for tat. You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.
They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they’ll create their own slaughterhouse….This is nature’s law. It’s not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You’ll make a slaughterhouse at home. You’ll kill your own child–abortion. This is nature’s law.
Who are these children being killed? They are these meat-eaters. They enjoyed themselves when so many animals were killed, and now they’re being killed by their mothers.
People do not know how nature is working. If you kill, you must be killed. If you kill the cow who is your mother, then in some future lifetime your mother will kill you. Yes. The mother becomes the child, and the child becomes the mother.(8)
Commenting on the Hitopadesa, an ancient Sanskrit text, Satyanarayana dasa observes:
At present, people generally unite only for sensual pleasure, and children are often considered a regrettable accident….Abortion being accepted as standard practice, people conveniently forget that life begins at conception, by using such euphemisms as “tissue” when referring to the fetus. Although subconsciously they know that they are killing the baby in the womb, they prefer to say they are “terminating the pregnancy,” or “removing the tissue” so they may feel free of the guilt for murder, thus deluding themselves psychologically…they cannot escape the punishment for murder given by the laws of karma, and …in their next lives they will have to suffer the misery of repeatedly being aborted. (9)
Srila Prabhupada’s teachings indicate a spiritual link between humans and other sentient creatures: violence towards animals leads only toward violence against other human beings. Satya Narayana dasa similarly notes that people who commit violence against their unborn children will be subjected to the same violence in future reincarnations. The cycle of killing stops only through the practice of ahimsa toward all.
It is important to note here that the karmic repercussions of abortion, grave though they may be, are not “punishments” in the sense of being the personal vengeance of a wrathful, judgmental God. They are simply the consequences of violating a natural law–whether that law is violated out of ignorance, fear, or whatever other possible motive. These spiritual leaders are not intending to act as agents of such a God, but to help people become more mindful and compassionate in their behavior, and to promote the evolution of all the souls that may be harmed through an abortion–the child’s, the mother’s, the father’s, the abortion provider’s.
Honestly I think Satyanarayana dasa takes the cake for the easiest to read and most apt summation of the world today (here is is again, because it’s worth reading twice) –
At present, people generally unite only for sensual pleasure, and children are often considered a regrettable accident….Abortion being accepted as standard practice, people conveniently forget that life begins at conception, by using such euphemisms as “tissue” when referring to the fetus. Although subconsciously they know that they are killing the baby in the womb, they prefer to say they are “terminating the pregnancy,” or “removing the tissue” so they may feel free of the guilt for murder, thus deluding themselves psychologically…they cannot escape the punishment for murder given by the laws of karma, and …in their next lives they will have to suffer the misery of repeatedly being aborted
In closing, I’d also like to point out the approximate founding dates of these faiths and leave you with the thought that throughout the course of the world (certainly the last few thousand years) these have been (and still are) the teachings on abortion, from the eyes of the faithful.
Approx founding dates –
1,500 BC. Hinduism
30 AD. Christianity
610 AD. Islam
So whatever religion you hold dear, or whether you hold to religion at all – let’s take a stand!
- Lewis Regenstein, Replenish the Earth (New York: Crossroads, 1991), 221.
- T. K. Venkateswaran, “Hinduism, A Portrait,” in A Source Book for Earth’s Community of Religions, ed. Joel Beversluis (Grand Rapids: CoNexus, 1995), 40-44.
- Hinduism Today, March 1986.
- These verses, along with others, are listed on the Dancing With Siva Lexicon Page at http://planet-hawaii.com/~htoday/HimalayanAcademy/Publications/HinduLexicon/DWSLexicon.html.
- Mohandas Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections (New York: Continuum, 1980), 150.
- Hinduism Today, March 1986.
- Hayagriva dasa, The Hare Krishna Explosion (San Francisco: Palace Press, 1985), 43.
- A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “Slaughterhouse Civilization,” Back to Godhead 14:9 (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1979).
- Satyanarayana dasa, Hitopadesa (Faridabad, India: Jiva Institute, 1997), 20-21.