Many people believe that Christianity and Christians are against abortion. This has neither been the dominant position through Christian history nor is it a position shared by all contemporary Christians. In fact, many Christian churches support women’s moral decision-making around their reproductive experiences.
Of the eleven Christian statements included in a 2013 Pew Research Center study, only Roman Catholics state that they oppose abortion in all circumstances. All the other denominations, even the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), and the Missouri Synod Lutherans concede that abortion is justifiable when a woman’s life is in danger. The LDS, the NAE, and the Episcopalians also specifically mention that rape and incest are also considered justifiable reasons to terminate a pregnancy.
Many mainline Christian denominations have thoughtful and robust statements on abortion that, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s statement, calls for a public discussion of abortion that moves beyond the narrow binary of pro-life and pro-choice. And many Christian denominations share the position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that women can “make good moral choices in regard to problem pregnancies.” And the Unitarian Universalists have been leaders on issues of reproductive health, rights and justice since the early 1960s.
Jewish tradition holds that life begins when a baby takes its first breath. Nephesh, is the Hebrew word that is translated as “breath of life” and is often associated with what we consider to be a person’s “soul.” In the Genesis 1 creation story, the text states, then God formed adam (or the earth creature) from adamah (the dust of the earth), and breathed the breath of life into the nostrils, and adam became a living being. For most Jewish people and for many Christians, this association of birth and the first “breath of life” marks the beginning of human personhood.
Within Islamic tradition, there is a strong belief that the soul enters the prenate at 120 days after conception. This is well into the fifth month or twentieth week of pregnancy and because 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks and that tiny 1% that take place later in pregnancy are related to serious maternal and fetal health issues, abortion has not been a particular matter of theological or political concern for most Muslims.
In fact, many religious organizations work together through the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice to advocate for women’s reproductive health including continued access to safe and legal abortion services in this country.
Polling data consistently shows that most people of faith support continued legal access to abortion and only small minorities of people, including most people of faith in the country think that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
Even though the majority of religious people in the country support safe and legal access to abortion, it can be difficult to find the resources that demonstrate this support.
The resources on this website are intended to help students, journalists, scholars, and interested people find those resources more easily.