Religious Key Issues - Abortion

Abortion & the Bible

The majority of Christians would consider abortion to be the taking of innocent life, and therefore contrary to Biblical teaching. Various groups, however, have interpreted the Bible both to condone and condemn abortion.

The Didache on Abortion

The Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) taught that there are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.

Early Christian Writings

The Council of Ancyra (314) referred to an ancient law that excommunicated women who deliberately aborted their children. In general, abortion was condemned. There was speculation, at times, as to when the child was 'ensouled,' but the general consensus was to use caution in this determination. From as early as the first half of the second century there are writings that condemned abortion.

Christian Denominations

Most Christian denominations oppose abortion on the understanding that the foetus is an individual created by God for a purpose. There are significant variations on this theme within the Christian churches, but a general recognition that abortion is a very serious moral dilemma.

Catholic Teaching

Since the first century the Catholic Church has condemned the moral evil of abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law (as respects right and wrong). Formal co-operation in an abortion constitutes a grave offence against God, and the Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to what they regard as a crime against human life.

Sanctity of Life vs Quality of Life

Traditionally, Christianity, Judaism and Islam hold that the unborn child is an individual created by God, for God's purpose, and because Life comes from God it belongs to him alone. This is the basis for the belief in the sanctity of life.
The opposite, secular-humanistic view otherwise referred to as 'Functionalism, regards a person as having value to the extent of how he or she can usefully function.


Orthodox Judaism generally prohibits abortion except to save the mother's life.

Conservative Judaism takes the view that an abortion is justifiable if a continuation of pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or when the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective, although the decision to abort should never be taken lightly.

Liberal Judaism says that an abortion may be performed for the woman's overall well-being. If there must be a choice between them, an existing life takes precedence over a potential life"


Islam does not permit abortion, and regards it as a heinous crime under the law. Abortion is considered as the killing of an innocent person. The exception is if, after consultation with a specialist, the woman's health is a risk factor.


Under the first of the five Buddhist precepts--to refrain from taking life, from insects on up the evolutionary ladder--abortion is prohibited. Life is deemed to begin as soon as consciousness arises, and fetuses are seen as having consciousness.


According to the Caraka Samhita, a Hindu medical text, the soul is already joined with matter in the act of conception. Hindu ideology makes an exception however, when abortion becomes necessary to save the life of the mother.