Abortion and Buddhism

As I want to write an article about this theme, I already looked around a little in internet and saw several opinions, and of course I have my own opinion, too, but what I want to describe is - of course- the Buddha’s stance on this - or, what probably would have been his stance - if such a stance could be distilated from the scriptures at all.

So, if you want, please, your thoughts, comments, sutta passages regarding this subject etc.

I want to state clearly: I don’t want this to be a discussion for or against abortion; only an intelectually honest discussion about what the Buddha’s stance is, or would be.

this article might be of some help


RRBv8n1_2010_Damian_EN.pdf (312.8 KB)

Hm, hard to say, but I think this would be impossible to establish. Of course, we can say that what the Buddha’s stance ‘would be’ is whatever we want it to be, in the absence of direct evidence. But this is why topic’s like these are the subject of such hot contention.

The Buddha instructed that monks and nuns are not allowed to endorse an abortion. One of the 5 precepts is not to take life. I guess that’s the evidence we have, and from that point on it’s the individual choice and decision of each woman (or person deciding to have the abortion if they are forcing someone else to do it). There are a number of different variables and factors to also take into account which I think is why it’s such a difficult subject to get a clear answer on.


The Buddha obviously did not endorse abortion, placing strict prohibitions upon monks arranging or recommending abortion. Yet the Buddha obviously did not expect all people to follow his path.

For those that believed they made a mistake in life, the Buddha was always ready to forgive (end of DN 2 for example). Buddha practises forgiveness rather than terrorises people caught up in difficult life situations.

As for kamma (action), the effects (vipaka) generally follow on the intention. Thus, it is said: “kamma is intention” (AN 6.63) :seedling:


I almost decided not to write anything on the subject, but as is often the case I violate that rule, as my distant relative (on the Hanks side) Abraham Lincoln once said: " Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

On questions such as abortion and the First Precept Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami, this is a training rule that is oriented to cultivate in a person the giving of " freedom from danger, freedom from animosity…" AN 8.39 The First Precept can be seen not as a law, or an absolute bar to the taking of life, but a part of the training toward liberation. So, when writers apply the First Precept in the way that a law or injunction is applied, it seems to me a misapplication of the training rules that the Buddha set forth, and a codification and punishment system ie common Penal Codes, which is not the application, it seems to me, the Buddha intended.

Further, we understand that we are the owners of our actions, the heirs of our actions. Our kamma, and the ethics, reasons and intentions behind it, determines the quality of the kamma and its results as this affects our present lives and our eventual rebirth. So, for me, it’s very hard to discuss what the Buddha’s position on abortion, or on any act, might be, when the Buddha’s position on kamma is so clear. The Buddha did not establish a black and white Penal Code, but a rational approach to pragmatic positive ethics.

If a woman chooses to have a therapeutic abortion, she owns this action and will bear the fruit of this action. That’s all. It is very difficult for any person in this life to surmise what the fruits of that kamma might be, in this life or in the next.


Probably you came across this topic already but I just wanted to take the opportunity and presentat it to those who may not.


Thank you for the article. I find it rather flawed:

“In some cases, Buddhism allows
abortion. For example, when abortion is
induced for saving the mother’s life. The
fact that the sacred texts do not mention
anything about therapeutic abortion is
interpreted as an implicit acceptance. A
similar attitude concerns with the
pregnancy resulted from sexual assault,
although the mother who carries on such
a pregnancy from compassion for the
child obtains many merits (Harvey,
2000). The Buddhist has a different
attitude in situations when the foetus is
diagnosed with severe physical or mental
disabilities: the handicap is a
manifestation of the child or parents’
karma and therefore abortion is

Arguing that way, one could also reason and say that the rape of the woman and the illness of the mother that warrants therapeutical abortion also would be a manifestation of karma.


yes, I saw that topic already, but thanks anyway!

I think it would also be safe to say, in general, that the more the embryo is developed, the more serious the kammic consequences will be?

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speaking of a fetus consciousness one might find odd the fact that while recognizing supernatural ability of past lives recollection the Doctrine says nothing of the ability to recollect embryonic or even infantile experience

My view is that the answer to this question is : who knows?

Kamma and its effects / results seems to me to be more complex, more unpredictable, so it is difficult to say that there is a one-to-one relationship with a given act or fact pattern, and outcome. The results of any given kamma can be affected by other acts, intentions, conditions, and outcomes. The kamma may bear fruit in a given lifetime, or in a lifetime eons later, in theory.

Again, the Buddha identified and established a cause and effect ethic and practice that I feel is not amenable to questions such as the one posed. The question is certainly valuable, and worth considering, but the answer is likely not knowable.


I agree Michael. More factors play a role and kamma is not something that simply can be computed. Therefore I added “in general”.

A Mormon woman has discovered how to end abortions…
Ending abortion


Needs to be read in the spirit of “A Modest Proposal”, but yes that is a fresh take on the issue.

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