January 16, 2013

Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion

American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Recognizing the different views on abortion among its members, the American Baptist Churches’ General Board encourages women and couples considering the procedure “to seek spiritual counsel as they prayerfully and conscientiously consider their decision.” Though the board opposes abortion “as a primary means of birth control,” it does not condemn abortion outright.

Buddhism

There is no official position on abortion among Buddhists, although many Buddhists believe that life begins at conception and that killing is morally wrong. In Japan, where there is a large Buddhist population, abortions are commonly practiced and often involve the Buddhist tradition of mizuko jizo, in which aborted fetuses are thought to be led to the land of the dead.

In this research package

Roe v. Wade at 40
A look at U.S. public opinion on abortion.

Public Opinion on Abortion Slideshow
A series of graphics that illustrate how opinion differs among various demographic groups.

Abortion and the Supreme Court
The constitutional dimensions of the abortion debate.

Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion
A breakdown of 17 major religious groups’ views on abortion.

Catholicism

In accordance with its widely publicized anti-abortion teachings, the Catholic Church opposes abortion in all circumstances and often leads the national debate on abortion.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that “elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God.” Therefore, the church says, any facilitation of or support for this kind of abortion warrants excommunication from the church. However, the church believes that certain circumstances can justify abortion, such as a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother or that has come about as the result of rape or incest.

Episcopal Church

While the Episcopal Church recognizes a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, the church condones abortion only in cases of rape or incest, cases in which a mother’s physical or mental health is at risk, or cases involving fetal abnormalities. The church forbids “abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or any reason of mere convenience.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The official position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America states that “abortion prior to viability [of a fetus] should not be prohibited by law or by lack of public funding” but that abortion after the point of fetal viability should be prohibited except when the life of a mother is threatened or when fetal abnormalities pose a fatal threat to a newborn.

Hinduism

Unless a mother’s health is at risk, traditional Hindu teachings condemn abortion because it is thought to violate the religion’s teachings of nonviolence. The general value system of Hinduism teaches that the correct course of action in any given situation is the one that causes the least harm to those involved.

Islam

Although there are different opinions among Islamic scholars about when life begins and when abortion is permissible, most agree that the termination of a pregnancy after four months – the point at which, in Islam, a fetus is thought to become a living soul – is not permissible. Many Islamic thinkers contend that in cases prior to four months of gestation, abortion should be permissible only in instances in which a mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape.

Judaism

Traditional Jewish teachings sanction abortion as a means of safeguarding the life and well-being of a mother. While the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements openly advocate for the right to safe and accessible abortions, the Orthodox movement is less unified on the issue.

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod states that “[s]ince abortion takes a human life, it is not a moral option except to prevent the death of … the mother.”

National Association of Evangelicals

The National Association of Evangelicals has passed a number of resolutions (most recently in 2010) stating its opposition to abortion. However, the organization recognizes that there might be situations in which terminating a pregnancy is warranted – such as protecting the life of a mother or in cases of rape or incest.

National Council of Churches

Because of the diverse theological teachings of its member churches, the National Council of Churches does not have an official position on abortion. The NCC instead seeks to provide a space where members can come together and exchange views.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In 2006, the Presbyterian Church’s national governing body, the General Assembly, reaffirmed its belief that the termination of a pregnancy is a personal decision. While the church disapproves of abortion as a means of birth control or as a method of convenience, it seeks “to maintain within its fellowship those who, on the basis of a study of Scripture and prayerful decision, come to diverse conclusions and actions” on the issue.

Southern Baptist Convention

In a 1996 resolution on partial-birth abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed its opposition to abortion, stating that “all human life is a sacred gift from our sovereign God and therefore … all abortions, except in those very rare cases where the life of the mother is clearly in danger, are wrong.”

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Beginning in 1963, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations passed a series of resolutions to support “the right to choose contraception and abortion as a legitimate expression of our constitutional rights.”

United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ is a firm advocate of reproductive rights, including the right to a safe abortion.

United Methodist Church

While the United Methodist Church opposes abortion, it affirms that it is “equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.” The church sanctions “the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures” but rejects abortion as a method of gender selection or birth control and stresses that those considering abortions should prayerfully seek guidance from their doctors, families and ministers.