Buddhism & Abortion

Buddha taught that when contemplating a moral issue like that is to examine certain Buddhist principles and come to some conclusion for themselves.
  • The First Precept states: "I will not harm any living creature."
  • If it is accepted that the foetus is alive, it should not be harmed.
  • The general Buddhist belief is that a human life begins at the moment of conception.
  • The people concerned with causing the abortion  will be generating bad karma themselves for this act of violence.
  • Compassion  is necessary for the unborn foetus as well as for the woman.
It is important to note that Buddha tried to get away from making rules. He told his followers not to believe anything either he or any other religious authority said simply on trust. The emphasis in his teaching was on investigating the teachings - testing them against personal experience to see if within yourself you find them to be true.

In practice many Buddhist institutions have laid down rules and regulations, however, in regard to Buddha's actual teachings, in an issue like abortion, there is no absolute ruling. What a Buddhist should do when contemplating a moral issue like that is to examine certain Buddhist principles and come to some conclusion for themselves.

The First Precept is a moral principle that all Buddhists should try to keep as far as they are able. It is "I will not harm any living creature." If it is accepted that the foetus is alive, it should not be harmed.

The general Buddhist belief about rebirth is that at conception three things come together - the sperm, the egg, and the karmic force that is the effect of a previous life. What this means is that a human life begins at the moment of conception.

If a human foetus is terminated or otherwise dies, this might mean in Buddhist terms that bad karma carried over from the previous life has been 'paid', and so the next life will be more fortunate.

At the same time the people concerned with causing the abortion (say the woman, doctors etc.) will be generating bad karma themselves for this act of violence.

Compassion for the unborn foetus is necessary, but other conditions need to be considered, and compassion for the pregnant woman is vital too. At the very least, if a Buddhist felt that a woman had made a wrong decision in having an abortion, they should certainly extend compassion to her and not be judgmental.

Most Buddhists would feel that in principle abortion is wrong, or at least very regrettable, but one should always examine the circumstances and allow for exceptions, and not be condemning of those who arrive at a different conclusion.