Religious Voices Worldwide Support Choice: Pro-Choice Perspectives in Five World Religions
An overview of varying approaches to abortion within five major world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism.
The religions selected are not the only ones that have influenced abortion legislation around the world. Rather, they have been chosen to illustrate the fact that, within diverse religious and philosophical traditions, religious leaders and thinkers have varying views on a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
Many women live in countries where leaders invoke a dominant religion to justify restrictive abortion laws. For example, the opposition of the Catholic Church to abortion has been highly influential throughout the world, particularly in Latin America. Similarly, Islamic law has been invoked to support restrictive abortion laws in nations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
There is a tendency to treat religious condemnations of abortion as irrefutable. Within most religions, however, there is considerable debate about key issues of morality, including abortion. Often obscured behind the public anti-choice assertions of some religious officials is a diversity of opinion regarding the practice of abortion. Indeed, at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (ICPD) and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, international coalitions of religious leaders joined to endorse recommendations that supported women’s reproductive choice. In making legislative and policy decisions about abortion or other matters on which individual consciences differ, governments should either take into account a diverse set of religious views or adopt a secular approach.