Krishna prevents the abortion of the future King Pariksit

Abortion is a subject of heated debate; proponents demand, “Pro-choice!” while critics shout, “Pro-life!” But without being “pro-understanding”—of the self, the body, and the science of consciousness—how can we be properly equipped to make choices on such life and death matters?

Krishna begins His teachings in the Bhagavad-gita by explaining the difference between the self and the material body; the body has life as long as the spirit self is inside. As soon as the soul leaves, the body loses all symptoms of consciousness.

The embryo develops in the womb according to the same principle; it develops to maturity and exhibits consciousness because of the presence of a spiritual spark. Without the soul, the body would have no life at all. The idea that we have consciousness only at a certain stage of physical maturity is not accepted anywhere in Vedic literature. Consciousness may not be fully exhibited in early stages of pregnancy, but the ancient teachings fully describe not only the physical stages of the embryo’s development but also the mental life of an unborn child.

Taking the life of an unborn child is considered the same as taking any life, and there are grave karmic repercussions. Abortion may nowadays be considered an acceptable way to avoid the responsibility of childbirth and child-raising, but this is a tragic symptom of the widespread lack of spiritual understanding in the world.

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The soul is eternal—it can never be killed (Bhagavad-gita 2.17). At the same time, the Vedas also tell us, “Don’t commit violence to anyone.” Every living being—plant, animal, and human—comes from the supreme living being, Krishna, and has a right to live.

The language used to define abortion is remarkably different from that used to describe similar actions. For example, one common definition of abortion is “the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy.” However, the deliberate termination of the life of a human being—homicide—is defined as “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another.” Infanticide—the deliberate termination of a human baby’s life—is “the crime of a mother killing her child within a year of birth.”

In both those cases, the word “killing” is used (italics added), but in the case of abortion the word “termination” is used. The underlying assumption seems to be that the unborn aren’t really “alive”; their inexplicable growth and development have nothing at all to do with the presence of consciousness, so “terminating” them doesn’t involve “killing”—any more than removing a tumor does.

Curiously, abortion is also defined as “the expulsion of a nonviable fetus” in the same dictionary that defines “nonviable” as “not capable of living, growing, or developing and functioning successfully”; yet all evidence indicates that fetuses have always lived, grown, developed and functioned quite successfully within the womb.

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We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Bhagavad-gita, 2.13: “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.31.1: “The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.”
  • Science of Self Realization, 7: “Our bodies are created at a certain moment by sexual intercourse. The semen of the father emulsifies and takes a pea form, and the living entity, or soul, takes shelter in that form, and because it takes shelter, it develops hands, legs, eyes, etc. This development is complete in the seventh month, and in the ninth month the human being comes out of the womb. It is because the soul is present that the child develops. If the soul is not present, there is no development, and the child is born dead. We can take this dead body and preserve it in chemicals, but it will not develop.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5.17.12, purport: “In this sinful age of Kali, people have even taken to the process of killing the child in the womb. This is the most degraded practice; it can only perpetuate the miserable material conditions of those who perform it.”
  • Teachings of Lord Kapiladeva, 17: “People are thinking that they can relieve suffering through abortion, by killing the child within the womb. In this way they are committing one sin after another and becoming more and more entangled. Consequently the aborted living entity will have to enter into the womb of another mother in order to undergo the birth that he is destined to take. Then, when he enters the womb of another mother, he may again be killed, and for many years he may not be allowed to see the light of the sun.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.16.14, purport: “The practice of killing children has existed in human society for a long time—since time immemorial—but in the days of yore it was very rarely performed. At the present moment, however, in this age of Kali, abortion—killing of the child within the womb—has become very common, and sometimes a child is even killed after birth. If a woman performs such an abominable act, she gradually loses all her bodily luster . . . Any woman who has ever performed such an infamously sinful act must atone for it, but no one now is doing that. Under the circumstances, the women responsible must suffer in this life and the next. Those who are sincere souls, after hearing this incident, should refrain from such child-killing and should atone for their sinful activities by taking to Krishna consciousness very seriously. If one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra without offenses, all of one’s sinful actions are surely atoned for immediately, but one should not commit such deeds again, for that is an offense.”

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