Lets Talk About Abortion in Islam: The Facts, the Evidence and the Current Social Climate

Right now, the debate around abortion is at an all-time high all because the United States’ legal system recently opted to overturn Roe v Wade which has now given states the right to re-introduce restrictive abortion laws. And because the controversial turn of events were also decided with supposed Christian values in mind, it seems as though a lot of people are looking towards other religions to see what views they hold on the issue.

Well, here’s everything you need to know about abortion in Islam and spoiler alert, it’s not as black and white as you might think…

What is Roe vs Wade?

In 1969, during a time when Texas state laws deemed abortions unconstitutional except for when a mother’s life was in danger, Norma McCorvey fought to overturn the legislation and won. Going by the pseudonym “Jane Roe”, she took on Henry Wade, the district attorney for Dallas County, in a legal battle titled Roe vs Wade, which went on to shape the lives of millions of women in America.

McCorvey was pregnant with her third child at the time and claimed that it was due to rape but after being rejected by the court, she was forced to give birth to the child.

But all was not lost. In 1973, the case finally made it to the Supreme Court and also received back up from a 20-year-old woman from Georgia called Sandra Bensing. Together, they pled that laws in both Texas and Georgia went against the US Constitution because they infringed a woman’s right to privacy. And by some miracle, considering the time period, they came out victorious by a vote of seven against two. In the end, the courts ruled that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution and so Roe vs Wade became a source of protection for a lot of women in the country.

What Did This Mean for Women?

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Roe vs Wade meant that women in America were allowed an absolute right to an abortion in the first three months (trimester) of pregnancy, but as each trimester progressed, there were more and more governmental restrictions that were put into place. The legislation also meant that in the final trimester, a woman could obtain an abortion despite any legal ban only if doctors confirmed that it is a necessary life or death decision in favour of the mother.

The Overturning of Roe vs Wade

Just 49-years-later though, the law has now been overturned in what has been slammed as a “controversial” decision. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the proposed case by Mississippi’s government which bans all abortions after 14 weeks and six days. It is now down to individual states whether they want to ban the procedure or not, but according to the BBC, major states in the US plan on adopting the new restrictions including Texas, Idaho and Arkansas. Other states, such as Florida , Arizona and Alabama are most likely going to follow suit too. In some states where the majority is split, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, elections are going to be the way forward to help determine legislation on the issue.

What Are the Main Arguments For and Against Abortion in Terms of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Those who are for abortion believe that a woman should have the right to choose what she wants to do with her body, hence the slogan, “my body, my choice” but I find it pretty reductive to just use a catchy one-liner to summarise an entire movement, so let’s look at some of the details this entails. Pro-choicers generally believe:

  1. A woman has the right to choose what she feels is best for her and her body, giving her the freedom to HAVE an abortion OR NOT
  2. The right to abortion is crucial for gender equality as there are no rules to determine what men can and cannot do with their body
  3. Rigid religious values should not outweigh medical and personal necessity (i.e rape, the mother’s life, severe deformation)
  4. Nor should they play a part in forming legislation especially in a ‘secular society’
  5. Abortion affects women disproportionately so it should favour their opinions over anyone else’s
  6. Banning legal abortions only means that women will turn to unsafer options which will put them at more risk

On the other hand, pro-lifers generally believe that every human life is sacred, even ‘potential’ life. The argument is heavily influenced by conservative, religious values.

  1. A fetus’ life begins at conception so abortion would class as ‘murder’. It therefore goes against human morals
  2. Everyone has the right to life, even when they’re in the womb (i.e. the sanctity of life)
  3. Only God has the right to give and take life and it shouldn’t be down to humans
  4. There are alternatives to abortion, such as adoption

Where Does Christianity Come Into This?

One of the main views that have come to plague this debate is religion, more specifically, Christianity. We’ve seen the mob dressed head-to-toe in Trump merch standing outside abortion clinics chanting ‘murder’ like a broken record, haven’t we? I mean, weird flex but if that’s what you want to do, you do you. However, now that it’s managed to seep its way into swaying legislation, it’s actually become a problem. Why?

Well, firstly, in a society that prides itself on secularism and so-called ‘freedom’, using one set of religious views to control an entire nation, especially when a portion of people don’t follow that religion, is an extremely ridiculous approach. And even within the Christian community, there are multiple groups that actually agree with abortion depending on the circumstance.

Beyond just that, Christianity is a religion that seems to have the most restrictive views on the issue and applying this to a society deemed “progressive” seems completely counter-progressive. Or is that the new progressive in America now?

According to ReligiousInstitute.org which outlines the churches views, “abortion remains a sin against God, whether or not it is legal in our society.” And in their words, “the very fact that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of Mary was a powerful reason for Christians to hold a high view of all human life. The unborn Christ was not merely a blob of cells, but was in fact the very Son of God, who had assumed a human nature in order to save and redeem human beings from their sin.”

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Not only that, but quotes from the Bible have been plucked to oppose abortion: “God’s Fifth Commandment is clear, ‘You shall not murder.’ This means, in the words of the Small Catechism, that ‘we should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.’ God forbids us to take the life of another person, and this most certainly includes abortion. God’s Word also says, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart’ (Jer. 1:5). Psalm 139:16 says, ‘Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.'”

These views have been used repeatedly to counter pro-choice movements and debates, and yes, even in Senate… Yikes.

What Does Islam Say About Abortion?

Now, Islam’s perspective on the issue is not as black-and-white as you may think. Instead, it combines, logic, principles and spirituality to give Muslims some guidance on the issue. According to the Yaqeen Institute, Muslims don’t subscribe to the idea that abortion is prohibited, nor do they agree with the fact that it should be encouraged or promoted as a means of contraception.

To sum it up as best as I can, here are the main points when it comes to Islam’s views on abortion, but please do take into consideration that different schools of thought believe in different stances.

  1. At any point during the pregnancy, if the mother’s life is in danger, she should be prioritised over the baby. What’s the logic behind this stance? Well, Muslims believe that certainty should not be overridden by doubt, which means that a potential life should not be prioritised over a stable life. In this case, the mother has established her life and more harm would come about in a wider setting if she was to lose hers.
  2. Abortion is also permitted at any stage during a miscarriage as it is believed that the soul is not within the fetus anymore.
  3. Up until 40 days, abortion is permitted for legitimate reasons such as rape or mental health issues that deem the mother incapable of childbearing.
  4. Up until 120 days (approx. 4 months), abortion is permitted if there’s a pressing issue such as abnormalities that would effect the baby’s quality of life, or due to rape or incest. This 120 figure comes from the idea of ensoulment, wherein at this point, Muslims believe that the soul is breathed into the fetus.

But one must also consider other conditions throughout such as the mutual agreement of partners, the sanctity of life, and understanding that children are the blessing from God.

What Are Other People Saying About the Issue?

Multiple celebrities and public figures have spoken out on the issue, with many using their platforms to discuss the dangers of a situation like this one.

Meghan Markle told Vogue that “We [everyone] have to do the work [against the new law]. Wherever we are, we can make clear that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right like freedom of speech.”

Other mainstream celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Kendrick Lamar and and Michelle Obama have slammed the decision, citing freedom and women’s rights as their main argument.

Credit: Instagram / @MichelleObama

On the other side though, many conservatives have taken it upon themselves to make their voices heard as well, but their representatives don’t seem to be as well-versed on the issue as they should be.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former Press Secretary under Donald Trump, gave a speech during a rally last month in which she made some pretty tone deaf comments about protecting children in the womb.

She said: “We will make sure when kids are in the womb, they’re as safe as they are in the classroom…

Now come on, Sarah. Come on. As if she thought about that line and still said it knowing that the US is well-known for its school shootings. Over 200 incidents have already taken place just this year alone. Don’t believe me? Highly unlikely, but here’s a link to the Gun Violence Archive that states the date, location and incident ID and number of casualties of each shooting, and its alarming, to say the least.

However, other than Sanders, other public figures such as Greg Gilbert, a pastor of a church in Louisville, have spoken out. Gilbert suggested that the overturning of the law is a “win” for now, but this is just the first of many battles.

“Brothers and sisters, I want to leave no doubt:  The death of Roe vs. Wade is something to rejoice over and to praise God for! It is a good, good thing… There’s much left to be done. Our work has only just begun.”

The bottom line is… And if you don’t like personal opinions, stop reading here.

Coming from a religious perspective myself, I understand why, as a Christian or even as a Muslim, you would fully oppose abortion. Most pro-choicers understand that too because at the end of the day, it’s your fundamental right to practise your beliefs. What I fail to understand though, is why would you apply that individual belief to millions of people that literally don’t share the same views? Shouldn’t it be that people have a choice in the matter? If you want to, you can and if you don’t, you won’t have to – isn’t that the whole point of freedom? At one point, restricting abortion was deemed ‘unconstitutional’, so why now has it suddenly become allowed? The premise of the concept hasn’t changed, nor have the values that determined that outcome, but all of a sudden, because a bunch of primarily white, American men decided their beliefs gave them the right to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her body, it’s now the law of the land? This is not exclusively a religious issue, nor should it have been promoted as one, but here we are, paying the price for conservative, Christian values.

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It’s also quite concerning to me that we don’t think of women as capable enough to understand their own bodies. Restricting women from having bodily autonomy is a steep, downhill path and today, it might be abortions, but tomorrow, what will be next? And what’s stopping them from overturning other laws that protect other human rights? We’ve seen how one thing leads to another especially in a country that proposed a Muslim ban just a mere few years ago, and still until this day, continues to drop bombs on other poorer (primarily Muslim) countries, so we shouldn’t be willing to take that risk.

With the conditions outlined in previous sections of this article, the overturning of Roe vs Wade impedes certain Islamic rights too, but not only that, it puts women in danger medically and socially. It’s extremely frightening but why are you not as scared as we are? It’s because it’s not aimed at you, right? You don’t have to deal with the consequences because that fetus is not in you, nor do you have to go through the trauma of pregnancy, or in some cases, the horrendous methods of conception. Instead, you just sit and spew sexist opinions about the issue instead of taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture and who it’s specifically targeting and what that means for their lives. And let’s not pretend that this issue is not going to disproportionately effect women of colour and the working class because that just adds a whole new layer to the conversation.

I want to be understanding, but it’s difficult considering the hypocrisy surrounding the whole ‘pro-life’ argument. If these pro-lifers were so concerned about God and human life, they would be doing more to sort out the economic decline that has plummeted millions of Americans into poverty, they would be working hard to get children at the border out of cages and maybe they’d actually speak out when they see police brutality happening right on their doorsteps, but it’s silent when those issues present themselves, isn’t it? That’s how you know the protection of human life is not at the centre of this movement and it is more about controlling women in society.

The most ironic part of this whole thing is that the United States spent decades upon decades supposedly ‘liberating’ Middle Eastern, African and Asian women when in fact, the women in their own homes need those saviours now. But that’s a whole other conversation for a different day.

Just let people choose what they want to do. That’s it. That’s the conclusion.