Opposition to abortion is often presented as the uniquely Christian value. It is true that most denominations of Christianity, with Catholicism being prominent in the news lately in this regard, view abortion as immoral because an unborn child within a mother’s womb is considered human life. This has never meant an absolute ban on abortion. When the mother’s life is equally at risk, for example, actions that inadvertently result in abortion — particularly when saving the mother’s life is the aim — may not be murder or even a sin. (See: "The principle of double effect.")
What gets less attention is that this sanctity for life, including unborn life, spans most of the world’s religions.
Reform Judaism may sanction elective abortion under most circumstances, but Conservative or Orthodox Judaism takes a much dimmer view of abortion. The life of the mother is generally considered paramount, but the life of the unborn child has definite divine value. Indeed, one of the first and sharpest contrasts in moral codes between Jews and the pagan Greek and Roman civilizations (as well as other societies in the Mediterranean basin) was that the exposure of unwanted babies or the sacrifice of infants to savage deities was an abomination to Jews.
Islam takes a similar view, as an “Islam awareness” website explains:
The Shari'ah allows abortion only when doctors declare with reasonable certainty that the continuation of pregnancy will endanger the woman's life. This permission is based on the principle of the lesser of the two evils known in Islamic legal terminology as the principle of al-ahamm wa 'l-muhimm (the more important and the less important).
Hinduism is a very diverse metaphysical system, and yet the strong weight of opinion concurs with Swami Bhashyanada of the Vivekanada Vedanta Society of Chicago who states that:
…under no circumstances the jiva should be destroyed. That is uniformly stated from the point of conception onward. When such questions are asked, we advise them not to perform abortions. On has to try one’s level best to save mother and child both and beyond these efforts whatever happens is God’s will.
Sikhs, whose faith is generally considered to combine elements of Islam and Hinduism, likewise view abortion as bad, as a Sikh website explains:
While Sikhism denounces abortion, allowance in circumstances such as when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have serious defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
Buddhism, which is one offshoot of Hinduism, has it’s position on abortion explained thus by Professor Michael G. Barnhart at City University of New York:
It is quite clear from a variety of sources that abortion has been severely disapproved of in the Buddhist tradition. It is also equally clear that abortion has been tolerated in Buddhist Japan and accommodated under exceptional circumstances by some modern Buddhists in the U.S.
Jainism, which is another offshoot of Hinduism which moves in a different philosophical direction, has this position regarding abortion posted on a Jain study group website:
Abortion involves gross and intentional violence. Thus no Jain is expected to condone it under any circumstances. Some people may argue that abortion should be allowable in cases of rape and incest. In fact, rape and incest are criminal acts. We should not try to discriminate against the victims of such crimes.
The ancient religious of Zoroastrianism is still a living religion and exists all over the world. The position of that faith, according to Dr. Aaghaaee, is that:
Abortion has been counted as unrighteous in the ancient traditions of Zoroastrian teachings, as this act is both a deliberate murderous act and it also pollutes the Earth with a cadaver.
A Baha’i website notes this about the position that faith, which is considered by adherents to be the culmination of many earlier religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam:
Abortion merely to prevent the birth of an unwanted child is strictly forbidden in the Cause. There may, however, be instances in which an abortion would be justified by medical reasons, and legislation on this matter has been left to the Universal House of Justice….Basically the deliberate taking of human life is forbidden in the Cause, but the Sacred Text envisages certain possible exceptions to this rule and allows for the Universal House of Justice to legislate upon them. One such possible exception is the matter of abortion. It is clear that it is absolutely forbidden for a woman to have an abortion merely because she wants to have one, but there may be circumstances in which an abortion might be justified
What happens when a number of these religions express their views together on the morality of abortion? LifeSiteNews reports that on the island country of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, which has significant numbers of Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims and Buddhists, efforts by United Nations organizations to require the legalization of abortion and the insistence of Amnesty International that abortion be considered a “human right,” that people of different faiths have joined together to form a “Platform for Life,” which affirms the fundamental value of human life, including human life within the womb of a mother.
As the nation’s parliament debated legislation to legalize abortion, about 400 people — which is a very large crowd in such a small nation — held a rally on May 20th. It is not the “radical right-wing Christians” who impudently oppose abortion against the current of moral thought.
Christians simply state what Orthodox Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Baha’i beliefs also teach and what most Americans, according to Gallup, alsobelieve: abortion is wrong.
Photo: Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius