What is the Connection Between Abortion and Religion?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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As the majority of the world's population base life decisions on their observance of religious doctrine, abortion and religion are deeply connected. Religious stances on abortion vary greatly among each faith, putting some of the world's most prevalent religions on opposite sides of the abortion debate. The connection between abortion and religion can be found in Catholicism's strict ban against the medical procedure, in Islam's allowance of it only in certain circumstances, and in the Jewish faith's “to each their own” policy. The multitude of sects in religions often vary greatly on their views of the ethics of abortion.

The Catholic faith, governed by the Pope, has an extremely strict policy against abortion for any reason. According to Catholic law, ending a pregnancy, or even preventing one from happening, is not allowed, to the point that the Catholic church does not condone the use of any type of hormonal or barrier method birth control. Abortion is considered a grave evil, to the extent that Catholic hospitals will not allow an abortion in emergency situations, although many will refer a woman to another hospital for treatment. As far as the Catholic church is concerned, abortion and religion are completely incompatible.

In Islam, abortion is allowed in certain circumstances, especially in cases where continuing a pregnancy would be fatal to the mother. The general consensus is that allowing the mother to die would be more wrong than allowing the fetus to pass on. Therapeutic abortion is allowed, in some factions of Islam, up to seven weeks, with a few denominations allowing it until 16 weeks; anything over 120 days is not allowed according to interpretations of the Qur'an.

In Islam, the reason behind an abortion is also factored in to whether or not it is permissible. A lack of financial means to care for a child is not considered a legitimate reason to abort. Islamic leaders view this as an affront to Allah, as the Islamic faith is centered on the belief that Allah will provide for his believers.

Generally, the Jewish faith allows for abortion provided it is entirely the woman's choice, and especially in cases where a pregnancy could prove fatal to the mother. Each individual Jewish leader, however, considers the ethics of therapeutic abortion in a different light; orthodox Jews generally do not approve of an abortion for non-medical reasons.

Jewish scholars have long debated when life begins. The only clear concession has been that a fetus is not considered a full human being until it is born alive and therefore does not have any rights. A section of the Talmud, the central compilation of Jewish law, actually requires that a fetus be removed if it is a threat to the mother; failing to do so is considered a crime.

The connection between abortion and religion often varies greatly within these religions and among other faiths, especially those with numerous denominations. The reasons for and against it often come down to the belief of when life begins. Abortion and religion are at the center of the debate, with each side bringing its own sense of morality to the table.

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