Abortion & Religion
Over a third of all pregnancies,
across the world, are unplanned.1
The discovery of an unplanned
pregnancy affects all women
differently. Each woman’s
circumstances are unique and
there are sometimes reasons why
she may not feel able to continue
with a pregnancy.
Although some religions oppose
abortion under all circumstances,
many religions recognise the
different factors that influence a
woman’s decision on how to
proceed with a pregnancy and
teach that there are some instances
in which abortion is acceptable.
Most religions agree that abortion
is a last resort; they teach that the
decision to have an abortion is
a serious one and must not be
This leaflet looks at some
of the key moral questions
that influence religious
thought on abortion as
well as looking at the
teachings of some of
the major world
What are the Key Questions for People of Different Faiths?
● When does life begin?
Not all religions define a particular moment when
life begins but some, like Buddhism, Sikhism and
Catholicism, teach that life begins at fertilisation –
the moment that sperm meets egg. The Roman
Catholic Church says that the fertilised egg is a sacred
life, with as many rights as a baby, child or adult, and
forbids abortion. Amongst Buddhists and Sikhs there is
a variety of opinions on the morality of abortion.
Medical science tells us that a proportion of fertilised
eggs do not become implanted in the woman’s womb
and that a large proportion of those that do (up to 25%)
are lost naturally to miscarriage. This loss of ‘life’ is
often not acknowledged in any formalised religious
ritual – such as a funeral – and in many cases the
woman might not even know that she was pregnant
or that she has miscarried.
● Who has the greater right to life:
the fetus or the woman?
The Roman Catholic Church says that abortion –
‘the deliberate ending of a pregnancy’ – is never
acceptable, even to save the life of the woman.
However, life-saving treatment can be carried out on
a woman even if it w