Buddhism, like the other religions of the world, faces the fact that abortion
may sometimes be the best decision and a truly moral choice. That does not
mean there is nothing troubling about abortion, but it means that Buddhists
may understand that reproductive decisions are part of the moral complexity
A thoughtful commentary on Buddhist views on abortion is provided by James
Hughes, PhD, who teaches Health Policy at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut,
and is Trinity's Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning.
Dr. Hughes was a Buddhist monk. He is also the Executive Director of the Institute
for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and its affiliated World Transhumanist
Dr. Hughes writes,
in an essay on his website (scroll down), that there are varying views among
Buddhists, with Western Buddhists most likely to have an attitude of general
moral tolerance. He quotes author Margot Milliken:
Given the present political and social climate, we are in danger of losing
the legal right to choose abortion. While I do not believe abortion is something
that should be legislated against, I do feel it is an option that should not
be taken lightly. Even if it seems that the best choice is to terminate a
pregnancy, we must acknowledge we are ending a potential life. This seems
more honest than acting as if our “pro-choice” stance does not
involve taking life, even though we may assume that that life is not fully
realized, conscious or developed.
He also quotes from a pamphlet from the Japanese-American Buddhist Churches
It is the woman carrying the fetus, and no one else, who must in the end
make this most difficult decision and live with it for the rest of her life.
As Buddhists, we can only encourage her to make a decision that is both thoughtful
That many Buddhists are politically tolerant of abortion despite personal
reservations suggests their recognition that their discomfort with abortion
is not a fundamental moral objection, as with slavery or torture, but a personal
and emotional one.
For a fuller understanding of Dr. Hughes' perspective, please read his entire