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How Religion Justifies the Right to an Abortion

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Holy Cross chapter.

 I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith tradition. I attended a Catholic middle school and high school, and I chose to continue my studies at a Jesuit college. I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person, even in times when I’ve questioned my faith or taken issue with the Catholic Church as an institution – both instances which, I admit, occur often. However, my journey of reckoning with my spirituality is not one of which I feel ashamed. Rather, I regard this journey with the utmost seriousness, as it comprises an integral part of my identity and way of life. In fact, I actually enjoy the challenges presented to me by the dialogue between what is deemed Catholic “dogma” and what I believe to be true as a woman of this faith. Abortion is an especially good example of a topic which prompts such spiritual interplay.

I recently attended a panel at my college entitled “Religious Support for Abortion Rights: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Perspectives.” What struck me the most from this discussion was just how truly “diverse” a range of perspectives there are to be found on abortion, not just between religions, but within them. As described by Professor Lisa Fishbayn Joffe of Brandeis University, Jewish law does not regard the fetus as a full life with the rights of a person who has already been born. According to the Talmud (a sacred text of Judaism), abortion is generally prohibited unless carrying the pregnancy to term is of sufficient threat to the mother. In such cases, abortion is not just permissible but required, as the “life in being” must take precedence. Of course, different people have different ideas of what constitutes a “sufficient threat” to the life of a pregnant person.

 Research shows that most Jewish people who identify as pro-choice base their view on the broader struggle for gender equality rather than solely Judaic law. A Jewish person considering an abortion, or simply looking for guidance during pregnancy, will likely seek support from a rabbi whose values mirror their own. In other words, there exists a dialogue between medical and religious authorities in the unequivocably pro-life journey of a pregnant Jewish person, whether the life chosen is that of a potential child, the mother, the family at large, or all parties involved (they are not mutually exclusive)!

 In describing the Muslim perspective on abortion, Professor Zahra Ayubi of Dartmouth College chose to center her presentation on the Muslim American experience, which is uniquely affected by anti-Muslim sentiment and patriarchal philosophy. Similar to the Bible and the Torah, the Qu’ran does not directly address abortion. It most clearly speaks on potential life in the context of family inheritance. Generally speaking, it is after one hundred twenty days (roughly two months) of pregnancy that a fetus is considered a legal entity with financial rights. Thus, abortion after this mark is usually considered permissible in cases of moral danger to the pregnant person. As always, this is where divergence of opinion tends to arise. According to Professor Ayubi’s research, American Muslim women don’t see their faith interfering with seeking healthcare. They view their decisions surrounding abortion as intensely personal, and centered on their unique relationship with God. If there is one prevailing commonality between varying Muslim views on abortion, it is that the concept itself is understood primarily in the context of appreciating God’s mercy and compassion.

Finally, I deeply resonated with the episcopal perspective of Reverend Elizabeth Kaeton, vice-chair of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). She emphasized the need to shift our focus from judgment to compassion – to get to the root causes of the truly anti-life realities in our country and our world that present pregnant people with no other alternative but abortion. To add my own perspective, I believe it is the individual’s right to forge their life on their own terms, regardless of whether their life is tangibly at stake. After all, who am I to perceive God’s will for anyone’s life but my own? And as Reverend Kaeton told a ninety-six year old woman who was burdened with guilt over an abortion she received at eighteen years old “there is no hate in heaven”.

Lauren Mlicko

Holy Cross '26

she/her | Queens, NYC | artist & storyteller