Hinduism & Abortion

Hindu scriptures and tradition have from the earliest of times condemned the practice of abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger.
  • Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garha-batta (womb killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul).
  • Mohandas Gandhi, has written: "It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime."
  • Many families have sought prenatal diagnosis with the intent of aborting any foetuses that turn out to be female. 
  • There are Hindus who see adoption as a positive solution.
  • One need not be Hindu to also conclude that abortion generates bad karma which harms the whole web of life.
According to Nine Beliefs of Hinduism, a tract published by the Himalayan Academy of San Francisco: "Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, or non-violence." All life is sacred because all creatures are manifestations of the Supreme Being.

The Hindu practice of non-violence is connected to a belief in reincarnation: the repeated re-embodiment of souls in different species of life. The karma generated in one's present life determines whether one enjoys a higher or suffers a lower existence in the next reincarnation.

Hinduism teaches that abortion, like any other act of violence, thwarts a soul in its progress toward God.

Hindu scriptures and tradition have from the earliest of times condemned the practice of abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger. Hinduism teaches that the foetus is a living, conscious person needing and deserving protection.

Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garha-batta (womb killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul). A hymn in the Rig Veda (7.36.9, RvP, 2469) begs for protection of foetuses. The Kaushitaki Upanishad (3.1 UpR, 774) draws a parallel between abortion and the killing of one's parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) remarks that the fetus slayer, or brunaghni, is among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2).

In modern times, India's greatest apostle of non-violence, Mohandas Gandhi, has written: "It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime."

One need not be a Hindu or even share the Hindu belief in reincarnation to conclude that the practice of ahimsa towards all is the only way to stop the cycle of killing that surrounds abortion.

A contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami, comments on this shortcoming of the anti-abortion movement: 

“Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti-abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing--killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish. Thus although the movement calls itself "prolife," it is really pro-human-life. Its fudging with the terms life and human life reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as "sacred" as human life and therefore not worth protecting....If the prolife movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life...then undoubtedly it will gain great success.”

Hinduism, like other religions, has been misused to justify the oppression of women. But properly understood, it is a challenge to sexism as well as to the oppression of the unborn. Indeed, some Hindus have noted the karmic link between the oppression of already-born women and girls and the oppression of the unborn--especially in their objections to the tremendous economic and social pressures upon Indian women to marry and to bear sons instead of daughters.

Many families have sought prenatal diagnosis--sometimes with every pregnancy-- with the intent of aborting any foetuses that turn out to be female.

There are Hindus who see adoption as a positive solution. Hinduism Today has reported on a Hindu couple living in the United States who adopted an Indian girl, hoping to clear the negative karma of two past abortions.

"For those Hindus who are not aware of the [soul-evolutionary] truths, it is our responsibility to advise them not to undertake abortion," says V. R. Kandasubramaniam, an elderly scholar from the Sister Nivedita Academy in Madras.

Female feticide is a powerful example of how abortion--like any other violence to sentient beings--proves that an injury to one is indeed an injury to all. Hinduism compellingly explains why this is so, but one need not be Hindu to also conclude that abortion generates bad karma which harms the whole web of life.

Source: ABORTION IS BAD KARMA: HINDU PERSPECTIVES
by Vasu Murti and Mary Krane Derr