Abortion – A Religious Perspective

Abortion – A Religious Perspective

Author: Riya Khanna
III Year | National Law Institute University, Bhopal

Introduction:

Human life is sacrosanct. In other words, taking away someone’s life is in nobody’s hands. Lord Steyn in the case of R (on the application of Pretty) v. Director of Public Prosecutions[1], clarified that in the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, and different other religions, human life is considered holy. Life is the most sublime creation of God. It is this conviction and conception, that human beings cannot take away life, as they can’t give life.

This article discusses the act of abortion from the lens of different religions, viz. Hinduism, Christianity, Islam. It also analyses abortion against the constitutional right to religion.

What are abortions?

Abortion is the removal of a foetus from the uterus before it reaches the viability stage (in human beings, usually about the 20th week of gestation). The termination of pregnancy can happen naturally, in which case, the medical term for it is miscarriage. On the other hand, it can be forced too, in which case it is known as an induced abortion.

Instances of Religious Prohibitions on Abortions:

Different religions and cultures adhere to different injunctions against abortion.

1. Hinduism

Firstly in Hinduism, we can see an example in the Vedas. A Rig Vedic hymn [7.36.9, RvP, 2469] begs for protection of fetuses:

“May this our song of praise reach you, O Maruts, and Visnu guardian of the future infant. May they vouchsafe the singer strength for offspring. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.

2. Christianity

Secondly, we can find some of the verses from the Bible opposing abortion[2]:

Jeremiah 1:5 :
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

and further in

 Numbers 12:12 :
 Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb.

3. Islam

Thirdly, in Islam we can see”Muslim legal scholars concur collectively that after the fetus is completely formed and has been given a soul, prematurely ending it is haram.”[3] Unlike birth control, abortion implies the elimination of an already fertilized living human entity. It is further held that abortion without reasonable grounds is a murderous crime.[4]

Protection under Article 25:

Certainly, religious texts regularly structure the premise from specific convictions.[5] In Mohd. Hanif Qureshi’s case, the Court placed reliance upon religious texts to decide if the practices followed by the individuals are upheld by religious tenets.[6]  Abortion is prohibited by religion. Article 25 guarantees religious faith.[7] Hence, we can draw inference that Article 25 prohibits abortion.

There lies a conflict between universal rights to dignity and liberty and the religious right which restricts abortion. In this manner, the restriction on abortion secures the right to life of the foetus.

Protection of Foetus or Women’s Reproductive Rights:

Human life exists in the embryo from the 14th day of conception. The State must secure and advance the life of the foetus. It must protect it from unlawful impedance.[8] The Constitution secures a woman’s right to free development of her personality. This incorporates freedom to decide against parenthood. However, every right has limitations.[9] Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights restricts self-assertive deprivation of life.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, bodily integrity is a facet inter alia of the right to life[10] and Article 21 is also available to the child to be born.[11] Therefore, the right to life of a child may be said to have precedence over the reproductive rights of women. In short, Article 25 of the Constitution protects the right to life against such abortion.


Footnotes:

[1]R (on the application of Pretty) v. Director of Public Prosecutions  1 All ER 1 (2002)

[2] Vikhyat Oberoi, ‘Reasons to Embrace God and to Degrade’, 3 Nirma University Law Journal,  (2014)

[3] Quaradawi Supra 201

[4] Abdur Rehman Shad, Do’s and Do not’s in Islam 89 (1997)

[5] In R (Williamson) v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment QB 1300 (2003)

[6] Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Others vs The State Of Bihar AIR  SC 731 (1958)

[7] Javed v. State of Haryana MANU/SCOR/24688/2016

[8] Surjibhai Badaji Kalasva-on behalf of his Minor v. State Of Gujarat3 GLR 2498 (2018)

[9] Ashaben v. State of Gujarat and Ors. 4 Guj Crimes 1 (2015)

[10] Justice K.S. Puttaswamy and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. 1 SCC 1 (2019)

[11] S. vs. State of Rajasthan and Ors. MANU/RH/1263/2019

Editor : Ananya Manjunath

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