No religion actively supports abortion, but some religions accept that there are situations when abortion may be necessary. A few religions oppose abortion under all circumstances.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Evangelical Christian churches teach that abortion is absolutely unacceptable in all circumstances.
The Roman Catholic Church used to accept abortion up until ‘quickening’ - the moment at which movement is felt in the womb (normally around 16-20 weeks). It is only since 1869 that it has taught that sacred life begins at the moment of conception. Abortion is now prohibited under all circumstances and can be punished by exclusion from the church (excommunication).
Although Orthodox Judaism teaches that life only begins at the moment of birth, abortion is prohibited except where the mother's life is at risk or continuing with the pregnancy will seriously damage her health.
Hindu scriptures accept abortion only to save a woman’s life.
The Church of England teaches that abortion is sometimes a ‘necessary evil’. There are certain circumstances (for example serious risk to the health of the mother) when her needs override the rights of the fetus. Other Christians such as Methodists teach that personal and social factors need to be considered in each case. Some members of the Methodist church supported the legalisation of abortion in the UK, as they were concerned about the dangers of illegal, unsafe abortion.
Islam teaches that the actual life of the woman takes precedence over the probable life of the fetus, so abortion is acceptable to prevent harm to the woman’s health. Some scholars also sanction abortion if the pregnancy resulted from rape. As it is believed that the fetus becomes 'ensouled' at 120 days, early abortion is considered to be less sinful.
Some religions such as Liberal Judaism and Sikhism teach that a woman and her partner must make the best decision they can taking into account the moral issues involved as well as the practical considerations for a woman’s wellbeing. Buddhism asks people to search their conscience and make the right decision for themselves.
When making decisions about issues such as pregnancy and abortion, people of faith try to balance their real life circumstances with the teachings of their religion. In practice people of all faiths, in all countries, use abortion as a way to limit family size or space their children where contraception is unavailable or where it has failed to work effectively. In many Latin American countries the strict Catholic prohibition on abortion is reflected in the law and each year women and doctors are imprisoned for having or providing abortions. However, national abortion laws do not always reflect the religion of the country. India, which is a mainly Hindu country, has liberal abortion laws. Many Islamic countries prohibit abortion entirely even for reasons accepted by Islam.
Including some of the key questions for people of different faiths.
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