Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Religious Studies

Hinduism: contraception and abortion

Abortion

Abortion is the artificial ending of the life of a foetus in the womb (uterus). A natural abortion is called a miscarriage. Abortion has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since 1967 when The Abortion Act was passed. A new upper time limit of 24 weeks was introduced in 1990 under The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

An abortion may be carried out if one of the following conditions applies:

  • the life or physical health of the mother is at risk
  • the mental health of the mother is at risk
  • the mother's existing family will suffer
  • there is a reasonable chance that the child will be born seriously disabled

Where the mental health of the mother is at risk, or her family will suffer if the pregnancy continues, the latest termination date is 24 weeks. There is no upper limit if the life or physical health of the mother is at risk, or if there is a reasonable chance of a seriously disabled child being born.

In 1974 119,000 legal abortions were carried out in England and Wales, by 2006 this figure had risen to 193,700.

Hindu teaching on abortion

Hindus believe in the principle of ahimsa (non violence).

When considering abortion, the Hindu way is to choose the action that will do least harm to all involved: the mother and father, the foetus and society. Some Hindus believe that it is better for a child not to be born than to be born into a life of poverty or with serious physical and mental abnormalities.

Hinduism is generally opposed to abortion except where it is necessary to save the mother's life.

Traditional Hinduism and some modern Hindus also see abortion as a breach of the duty to produce children in order to continue the family and produce new members of society.

His being is the source of all being, the seed of all things that in this life have their life... He is God, hidden in all beings, their inmost soul who is in all. He watches the works of creation, lives in all things, watches all things.

Svetasvatara Upanishad

Back to Sanctity of life index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.