Hinduism and abortion : a traditional view.
This study entitled "Hinduism and Abortion: A Traditional View" outlines what the Hindu Smriti and Shruti texts have to contribute in the abortion debate. It is important to consider what an ancient tradition, Hinduism, has to contribute with regard to a modern controversy. The study undertakes a cursory look at bioethics and then proceeds to examine the Hindu world view and the Hindu view of the unborn. The important Hindu teachings with regard to dharma, kama, the ashrama dharma system, the samskaras and karma and reincarnation are considered in some detail. The unborn is considered not only in terms of its embryological development but also in terms of its social and spiritual significance. This study concludes that Hinduism is opposed to abortion except in certain very specific circumstances, for example, severe congenital abnormalities in the foetus, where the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for the mother, rape and incest. The traditional Hindu standpoint is pro-life and the Hindu scriptures provide a comprehensive and multi-faceted argument against abortion. The foetus is considered sacrosanct from the moment of conception. The view arrived at in this study is that the foetus is a person with rights, and abortion is a violation of those rights. Abortion is considered to be murder. An important and salient contribution from a Hindu perspective is the fact that the foetus is a bio-psycho-socio-cosmological and spiritual being and as such the abortion debate transcends individual ethics thus raising important social and cosmological concerns. Hinduism has much to contribute to the abortion debate and many of the Hindu teachings cited in the study are relevant for today. Celibacy, the Hindu view that the sexual act ought to be seen as a deeply spiritual act, the emphasis on the Ashrama Dharma system and ahimsa are important principles that need to be emphasized to face the challenges of the increasing demand for abortions.