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Religious Studies

Islam: 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.

Islamic teaching on abortion

Abortion is not permitted within Islam unless it’s to save the mother’s life. Even if a pregnant woman is sentenced to death, this cannot be carried out until the baby has been born.

The later the abortion takes place the worse it is thought to be. Some Muslims believe that for the first four months of pregnancy the woman has greater rights than the foetus but that after this time they are equal.

One of the reasons that Islam is very opposed to abortion is because, before the time of Muhammad [Muhammad: The name of the final Prophet. ], unwanted female children were often buried alive in Arabia. Islam teaches:

Do not destroy your offspring for fear of poverty, it is We Who provide for them and for you. Surely, destroying them is a great sin.

Surah 17:32

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