Buddhism and Abortion

However, some contemporary Buddhists, especially in the West, feel that there is more to be said on the morality of abortion than is found in the ancient sources, and that there may be circumstances in which abortion may be justified. For one thing, early Buddhist attitudes were formulated in a society which took a very different view of the status of women from that of the modern West. Feminist writers have drawn attention to the patriarchal nature of traditional societies and to the institutionalized repression of women through the centuries (others deny that either of these historical claims is correct, except at specific times and places). It has also been argued that abortion rights are integral to the emancipation of women and are necessary to redress injustice. Buddhists who are sympathetic to this view and who support the notion of the woman's “right to choose” may recommend meditation and discussion with a Buddhist teacher as ways in which a woman can come to a decision in harmony with her conscience. As the encounter between Buddhism and Western values proceeds, discussions over the abortion question will continue, hopefully producing more light than heat, in contrast to the dominant pattern in the West.

Damien Keown is professor of Buddhist ethics at the University of London. He is the author of numerous books, including Buddhism & Bioethics and Buddhism and Abortion.

8/6/2009 4:00:00 AM