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Religious Studies

Sikhism: 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.

Sikh teaching on abortion

Sikhs believe that human life begins at conception. They also believe that all human beings are created by Waheguru (God) and that Waheguru lives in them:

O, my body, God infused divine light in you and you were born into the world.

Guru Granth Sahib 921

Central to Sikhism is the belief that Waheguru is the creator of all:

God is the destroyer, preserver and creator.

Japji Sahib 5

Therefore, everything that has life is sacred. For this reason, Sikhs cannot morally allow an abortion to take place even if there is a definite chance of the unborn child being severely mentally or physically handicapped. The only circumstances when abortion might be regarded as acceptable if the pregnancy was a result of rape, or, as in other faiths, if the mother’s life is at risk during pregnancy.

In the first watch of the night, O my merchant friend, you were cast into the womb, by the Lord's Command. Upside-down, within the womb, you performed penance, O my merchant friend, and you prayed to your Lord and Master. You uttered prayers to your Lord and Master, while upside-down, and you meditated on Him with deep love and affection. You came into this Dark Age of Kali Yuga naked, and you shall depart again naked. As God's Pen has written on your forehead, so it shall be with your soul.

Guru Granth Sahib 74

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