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abortion

edited July 2005 in Buddhism Today
what is the buddhist view on abortion? or is there one?
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Comments

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2005
    Well there are many views about it as there are people I suppose. Generally though not to kill is the most important precept and human life is considered the worst to take. Buddhist usually agree that life begins at conception. So abortion is not the best way to go. An abortion can be a negative act or kamma with negative results or fruit. But it isn't so simple as that all the time. The Buddha said that intentions and states of mind are as important as the act. If an abortion was preformed with the only intention of saving the mother's life, or another "good" reason and not just to end a life, then it could be "good kamma" or action. No precept of Buddhism is set in stone. The Buddha said that no act can ever be the same twice and the instances will always be different. Any act isn't really imortant but the intention and "mind" of the person is. If a person hits another person with a car and kills them purely on accident, with no wrong doing, then it is not killing. Ask most monks and they will tell you this. There has to be an intention to hurt or kill for it to count as killing. Read about the patimokha or the 227 precepts of monastics. Usually they explain the importance of intention and so forth. Like a person who is insane cannot steal something if they are not in a state of mind to know what they are even doing. Ha, I'm sorry that my explaintion isn't the best. I'm just trying to be helpful. I guess the bottom line is, generally, abortions are to be avoided unless the mother's life is in danger.
  • edited June 2005
    This may be a silly and obvious question Elohim, but was if a woman is raped?
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2005
    Well, that is something I haven't thought about myself. I am unsure. It still is a life and if you got an abortion on the sole reason that you wanted to just get rid of it....that would be some heavy negative kamma. If your state of mind was "not stable", then your choice would not be negative or as negative. If you got an abortion because of fear that you would be mean and treat the child wrongly, out of compassion more than anger, then it would also not be nagative or as negative. In truth I am not 100 percent sure. Just for the record I am not against abortion. I believe everyone has the choice to do what they want, especially with their own bodies. In any event I'm sure that it is one of the most difficult decissions. I don't envy anyone that has ever had to make it.
  • edited June 2005
    One side tells me that I'm against it...another tells me I am not. To be completely honest, I never thought about it with the woman in danger...thats a really good point.

    I always pondered witht he rape thing.

    Abortion is a very touchy subject.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Anita wrote:
    One side tells me that I'm against it...another tells me I am not. To be completely honest, I never thought about it with the woman in danger...thats a really good point.

    I always pondered witht he rape thing.

    Abortion is a very touchy subject.


    It is so touchy, so full of potential for dispute rather than debate, opposition rather than consensus, that I have come to the conclusion that I can reach any absolute conclusion at all.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I am the same way. It makes me sad that things like this happen. I wonder if there is some volunteer work in my area where I can do something to help. Anyone know where to start looking?
  • edited June 2005
    I think something as touchy as the abortion issue has to be taken on a case by case issue. I think the choice should between a woman and her doctor, but in every case all options should at least be considered. From a health perspective, pregnancy is very hard on a woman's body and complications are still not uncommon - especially if the woman does not have access to adequate healthcare. From an economic perspective, the cost of healthcare can add up quick, not to mention the financial impact when the woman has to take off from work. For some, it's a welcome vacation. For others, missing a day of work may mean loosing a job that she depends on to put food in her mouth and others. From an emotional perspective, pregnancy is a huge change in a woman's life. Add to that hormonal changes and it's enough to send some women over the edge - especially in the case of rape. Plus there could be other circumstances where the woman is in danger if she's found out to be pregnant - if she's got abusive parents, an abusive boyfriend/husband, etc. During the Holocaust, many Jewish women got abortions secretly in the concentration camps because they would have been subjected to absolutely inhumane forms of medical "tests" had they been found pregnant.

    Some people's answer is to say that the woman can just give the baby up for adoption. I used to think that, too. However, if the woman does choose to stay pregnant and give the child up for adoption, there isn't much guarantee that the children will actually be placed in a good home. The state put my cousins in foster care only for them to end up abused and so messed up that I have to wonder if it would have been better to keep them with their druggie parents. And again, there are still all the problems associated with pregnancy.

    Of course, I do believe women should avoid abortion if reasonably possible. If for anything, just to save them the mental anguish they might have if they aren't sure about their decision. However, I don't think I can tell someone else what options they can or cannot have - especially since I have a loving husband with a well paying job, a nice home, a supportive family. etc.

    Interestingly enough, I read somewhere that there have actually been MORE abortions in the U.S. during the Bush presidency than the Clinton presidency. That's in part because of the economic downturn we've experienced here. If people really want to reduce abortions, the answer is not outlawing them. The answer is to:

    (1) give women the tools to keep from getting unwanted pregnancies in the first place (easy access to cheap contraception including the morning after pill, rape prevention, thorough sexual education, etc.)
    (2) reduce the risk of physical harm to the woman as a result of pregnancy (health insurance, help escaping from abusive relationships, etc.)
    (3) make sure that they have the tools to where they can support a child if they do decide to keep the baby (such as education, job training, maternity leave, a reasonable minimum wage, etc.)
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    If we claim the name of Buddhist, we will find ourselves asked about abortion, just as we are asked about the death penalty and vegetarianism.

    In truth, there is no hard-and-fast answer to any of these questions, nor should we be tempted to believe there are. They are individuals caught in hard places and each of them will show a unique face of suffering.

    Some will need to engage at a wide social level, some at the individual. Whichever is our route to bring relief of suffering, we do no one any good if we simply recite the sutras or fold our hands and say, "Escape from suffering lies in the Noble Eighfold Path". Our own practice of the N8FP aclls us to compassionate action. It is the existential challenge of the Dharma.

    And, whatever our own opinion, it is the person(s) in front of us who hurt and that's what matters.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2005
    I think that is the best answer to the question DharmaKitten. All of those points are true and I think each is a case by case issue best decided by a woman and her doctor. That is a very logical and compassionate look which is very "buddhist".
  • edited June 2005
    wow you guys thank you very much for all your responses, my girlfriend is pro-life and so she asked me what buddhists thought of abortion and i said that most are against it because of the beginning of life and anti-killing stance. i never expected such great responses though. thank you all very much.
  • edited June 2005
    Elohim wrote:
    I think that is the best answer to the question DharmaKitten. All of those points are true and I think each is a case by case issue best decided by a woman and her doctor. That is a very logical and compassionate look which is very "buddhist".

    Thanks. As you can probably tell, it bothers me that so many women are portrayed as evil baby killers because they got an abortion. Compassion should definitely go to them as well.
  • edited June 2005
    I believe and have seen first hand that there is a plethora of cheap, available birthcontrol. I also see that my taxes already pay for more than enough free healthcare. I see this firsthand as I work with and amongst the poorest of the poor.
    I don't want the government passing laws to restrict reasonable abortion access (other than partial-birth which I have issue with). At the same time, the two people resposible for creating a pregnancy need to step up and deal with their responsibilities. Using abortion as a means of birth control because you were too irresponsible to use a condom is immoral. If you're not ready for the possibility that you might incur a pregnancy then don't take the chance that the condom might break.
    It's not my responsibility to pay for the healthcare of the irresponsible. It's not my responsibility to put a condom on them or their partner.
    The media and the special interest groups have caused us to just accept that the government (ie. our tax dollars) is responsible for holding our hands and giving us everything. It's not.
    I'm more than willing to help people who are in need but I don't think the government should tell me WHO or HOW I'm gonna provide that help.
    Personal responsibility should be goal number one.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Batman, you seem a little angry in that post. I agree with you on a lot of what you said. I think people need to be more responsible. Of course the issue of if they keep the child and cannot afford it is a problem, too. Then our taxes have to step in again.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I have heard the arguments about 'government's' lack of responsibility for health-care, education, etc. My questions have remained the same for decades:

    1. What is this "government" of which you speak, other than the extension of the people?

    2. Do people have responsibility for each other?

    3. You may not want tax receipts spent on (for example) health care. Does that mean that you do want them spent on weapons?

    A healthy nation is more likely to be happier and more productive than a sick one.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Good questions Simon. The weapons issue is for another topic that's for sure. I will meditate on these. Gassho.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I think it gets back to the issue of when does a foetus become a baby and hence a human, and at what point does abortion become killing a tiny life? I have no real stance on the pro life - pro choice argument. The whole subject is dicy and it also gets back to the fact that we are trying to play "God".

    In that case what is the general consensus on contraception? And sex for fun rather than pro creation?
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    If, as Emmak, says, the question comes back to when 'life' arises in the gathered cells, we surely need a definition of life, otherwise we have no idea what we are seeking.

    Such a definition would be useful at both ends of the incarnation as the sad case of PVS patients can demonstrate.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Could it be based on quality of life?
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    That can be dangerous, Emmak: who will decide on adequate quality? In some places, decisions on intervention are arrived at with reference to outcomes.
  • edited June 2005
    Not angry at all...just passionate. I get frustrated at times with the call for more government intervention through money etc. The more money you receive from the government, the more control the government has over your daily life. We do NOT need government funded healthcare. Hold on...I'll start a new thread about this tonight.
    Yes, the government is supposed to be an extension of the people. The larger it gets, the more outta-touch it becomes with what the people want or need. The People loan power to the government NOT the government loans power to The People...at least that's the way it should be.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    That can be dangerous, Emmak: who will decide on adequate quality? In some places, decisions on intervention are arrived at with reference to outcomes.
    For sure Simon. I have worked with PVS people and it is not nice at all. You constantly wonder Is this person aware? and then Is this person happy? It is such a hard, hard thing. I know though, that I would not want to live like that. I would be happy for life support, feed tube etc to be removed. But that is me and I guess I have seen first hand the life of PVS and it is terrible.
    I realise though that another person cannot make that call on someone elses life.
    I think what I was getting at was abortion in the case of medical problems with the foetus or the mother.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    YAY Batman! Another frustrated person... Our government is similar. Helps those who wont help themselves. Helps people who dont want to work. All governments are out of touch because the people who call the shots will never be in a situation where they benefit from the so-called welfare system, public school system, public health system, public anything system. It is not a true democracy anymore, we are merely plebians and the politicians dont care.
  • edited July 2005
    Here's my take on the whole abortion issue.

    I believe there is a critical issue to consider here: when is this thing life? What is life? Because you have a collection of cells doesn't mean it is necessarily alive. The medical community, for what it's worth, defines life as having certain kinds of brain wave/brain activity. This is why things like viruses aren't life (plus the DNA issue, in the case of viruses). Up to a certain point it is considered that the fetus has the potential to be alive. But until that point (41/2 to 5 months) it is not yet truly life. It's close, but no cigar. An acorn is not the same as an oak tree. It has the potential within it to be an oaktree, but its potential isn't yet initiated or fulfilled.

    That being said, there's certainly an argument for when does the soul arrive on the scene? Certainly, the energy flowing off of the mother changes, but this may not reflect changes related to the appearance of a separate soul but may in fact reflect changes in the woman.

    I think most of us would agree that people need to make this decision on their own, within their own consciences and with their own ideas of what makes for God, and what makes for morality.

    So here's an interesting tidbit that may very well just reflect my own inner struggles and conflicts (no doubt it does) but still, it's interesting. Once, about two years ago, I had this unusual dream. This was in my pre-Buddhist days, even before I really knew it existed. I had been dreaming this spinning things since I was a child which I later learned are in fact mandalas: they spin, and change constantly as they spin, like computer fractals do. I was dreaming a black, white and grey fractal when suddenly the center of it opened up like a camera lens, and I could see deeply into the back of it. Behind the fractal stood my very beloved and deceased grandmother (Grammy). I stepped through the lens opening and hugged her, and I asked her a whole bunch of questions. Relevant to our discussion, I asked her "So Gram, this whole abortion thing: death, not-death, or something totally different?" To which she replied "Totally different. But don't worry about it." Soon after, the lens closed up and I was back on the other side of the thing.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    What did you make of that dream, Jenna?
  • edited July 2005
    Good question. What I can tell you is that after the dream, I felt somehow more peaceful about the whole subject.

    Dreams are all so individual. Freud called them "the royal road to the unconscious." There's a part of me which thinks that dreams just reflect the unconscious processing of the brain, such that the brain is able to stay asleep. There's a part of me which thinks that dreams tap into the universal unconscious, the collective unconscious, like Jung talks about.. And there's part of me which really likes to think my Gram came for a visit. Who knows?

    What do you make of it?
    emmak wrote:
    What did you make of that dream, Jenna?
  • edited July 2005
    thebatman wrote:
    I believe and have seen first hand that there is a plethora of cheap, available birthcontrol. I also see that my taxes already pay for more than enough free healthcare.

    Not cheap enough. Have you seen the price of Trojans lately? It really adds up. I have a friend who can only afford the really cheap condoms (same ones they usually give out in clinics). Well, those things don't work worth a darn. They break easily. In fact, most birth control effectiveness lists make a distinction between cheap and expensive condoms. Anyways, I've given her one of my Plan-B pills at least once because she can not afford another kid.

    As for me, I'm on Yasmin. That costs me at least $25 a month with insurance picking up the rest. Plus we use Trojans since I'm not taking any chances. And we have to use Trojans because the cheap ones, um, don't fit. $25 plus condoms adds up. That's $300 a year! Fortunately, my husband makes enough money to keep us comfortably in debt (as oppose to uncomfortably like most my friends). Still, it's hard to watch that money go bye-bye. Cheaper than having kids, though.

    As for the "free" health care in the U.S., I've known plenty of people who have been on it or tried to get on it. That and other govt. programs aren't enough to sustain a person alone, nor were they meant to. Unfortunately, the first time they get a steady minimum wage job they are suddenly making too much to qualify for all the govt. programs, but not making enough to cover basic expenses.
  • edited July 2005
    "Free" healthcare is a wonderful fairytale, a delightful myth, kind of like the American myth that if you work hard enough you can be whatever you want to when you grow up, or the myth of the Loch Ness monster. It has been my experience that it is nearly impossible to access this free healthcare unless you are destitute, which means you make below poverty wages (currently defined as below about 12K per year for a family of one to two people). Most states provide some kind of health insurance or health care services to children whose families make "middle class" wages (so, above poverty up to about 35 to 40K for a family of four), but if you are an adult in this country making more than poverty level wages and working, have fun finding free healthcare. In fact, companies like Wal-Mart (shudder, hack) have a notorious history of failure to provide healthcare for employees who work under what they define as full time; so women who have worked 35 hours per week don't have access to health care services, but make too little to be able to purchase health coverage (insurance for me costs 333.62 a month, for Frankie who is older, it's almost 400.00). In fact, some years back Wal-Mart (snort) got in trouble for encouraging women who had some health care through medical assistance/department of public assistance to only work a very few hours so that our taxes, rather than their profits, would cover the cost of insurance benefits (this was women who were trying to emerge from the DPA system).

    Imagine trying to support yourself and one child on minimum wage with no health benefits.
  • BrianBrian Detroit, MI Moderator
    edited July 2005
    I don't have to imagine. Someone very close to me is a single mother supporting three children on less than minimum wage with no health benefits.

    I agree with you 100% Jenna, about the state of health care in this country. "free" healthcare? Pah. I tried applying for this supposed "free" healthcare a few years ago when my family was in dire need, and they determined we made "too much money". We were struggling badly (routinely 2-3 months behind on the house payment, car payment, utilities, etc.) and yet we made "too much money". So someone who is barely living paycheck to paycheck must also take on the burden of healthcare expenses. It's pointless. The only ones who get free healthcare are those who understand how to take advantage of the system - and you almost have to be TAUGHT how to do that. It's a labyrinth.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Here in CA the healthcare seems to be ok. My wife and kids are on Medical and all their needs are covered. I go to a local clinic where I pay 20 dollars per visit. The ER is a different story. If I have to go there I never bother paying because I just don't have the money.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Pardon my ignorance, but do you folk in the US have to pay to got to emergency? Thats absurd...
  • edited July 2005
    emmak wrote:
    Pardon my ignorance, but do you folk in the US have to pay to got to emergency? Thats absurd...

    Here in the US have to pay for EVERYTHING. The emergency room personel can't actually turn you away in an emergency situation if you can't pay, but they'll bill the socks off of you. In some states, if you can't pay for your healthcare bills the state can actually lien your home. If you are conscious when you enter a hospital emergency room, the first stop is to the nice lady who tells you to go sit in the waiting room and fill out some forms. The next stop, before you even get to see a doctor or even the lowly intern, is to the nice lady who takes all of your insurance information.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Yeah and if you are knocked out they just take your arm and make you sign anyway. LOL
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    That is brutal. I guess our system here does have it's merits. I have been to ER many times, NEVER had to pay. It is only if you elect to go in as a private patient that you are stung.
    If you go to hospital to have a baby does it cost yoiu as a public patient?
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    What does it mean to be a private patient? I go to the ER when after hours when all th eother doctors are closed or on Sundays.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    I think I see the difference in the systems now. We can elect to pay for private health insurance, which will give you shoice of Dr. choice of hospital, and there is no waiting list for treatment. But you have to pay a 'gap' which is expensive sometimes. But if you go through the 'public' system, it is free, but sometimes you have to wait several years for the treatment, with no choice of Dr or hospital. For example, I need to have all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out. We do have private health insurance, but the gap will be around $600. So while I can have this done asap, in a hospital of my choice and my choice or Dr, I need to save up the gap fee to have it done. Alternatively, I could go public, but I could have to wait a year to have the procedure done.
    When I had my baby, I went public, as the gap for it would have been thousands. I ended up having several top up epidurals ($$$) an emergency cesarean, loads of drugs cos the epidural did not work. I was public and it did not cost me a cent. If I had used my private health insurance it would have sent us broke!!
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    We go to Dental Surgeons for our wisdom teeth. No hospitals.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    I have to have a general anaesthetic and have them dug out of my head. There is no way in hell or on earth they will do that while I am awake!
  • BrianBrian Detroit, MI Moderator
    edited July 2005
    I went to the ER because I got something in my eye. I was uninsured and had very little money.

    The bill? $700

    Having a baby can cost around $10,000 here in the US if everything goes smoothly.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Yes they do the same thing here but you are put out at the Denist office. My wife had it done. She was out in 45 minutes.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    We had Medical pay for our baby. Thank God because it would have cost us a fortune. Our daughter was born 2 months early and she had to spend 6 weeks in the hospital. Scariest thing in the world when she was born.

    DSCF0716.jpg



    I still want to cry seeing this picture.

    Picture0151.jpg


    But this is what she looks like now. :bowdown:
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Brian wrote:
    I went to the ER because I got something in my eye. I was uninsured and had very little money.

    The bill? $700

    Having a baby can cost around $10,000 here in the US if everything goes smoothly.
    That is really outrageous. :(
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Sorry to post twice, just saw pic of little Lorna. Poor little poopie! That sort of thing breaks my heart. (I am so thankful that my own child is healthy.) Lorna certainly looks just fine now! What a cutie.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Thank you. She was born 3 Pounds 1 ounce. Now she is over 22 pounds. She'll be 9 months old next week. :)
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited July 2005
    DarmaKitten,

    I don't want you to think that I'm ripping on you - because I'm not.

    But you have made statements about abortion being a woman's choice (which ultimately it is) or if a woman chooses to carry the child to term and then give it up for adoption. But then you spoke of the fear of giving a child up for adoption and fearing that the child might not go to a good home?

    I'm confused. Is death better for the child than adopting parents that might not be perfect? Isn't death a harsher sentence for the infant than a hard life?

    Also, with this next statement, please don't think I'm condoning abuse in any form or fashion. But, even people who have been abused in their lives - do they wish they'd never been born? Or have they been able to move on in life and gain happiness or even just be glad they've been able to experience life and the good things it can bring - rather than just never being?

    Michael
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited July 2005
    I'm not taking a position on artificial termination of pregnancy. What puzzles me is why death is seen as being 'harsh' or, even, a bad thing.
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    So this goes back to the death penalty thing. Is it bad. Another thread I know but your post reminded me of it Simon.
  • edited July 2005
    buddhafoot wrote:
    DarmaKitten,

    I don't want you to think that I'm ripping on you - because I'm not.

    But you have made statements about abortion being a woman's choice (which ultimately it is) or if a woman chooses to carry the child to term and then give it up for adoption. But then you spoke of the fear of giving a child up for adoption and fearing that the child might not go to a good home?

    I'm confused. Is death better for the child than adopting parents that might not be perfect? Isn't death a harsher sentence for the infant than a hard life?

    Also, with this next statement, please don't think I'm condoning abuse in any form or fashion. But, even people who have been abused in their lives - do they wish they'd never been born? Or have they been able to move on in life and gain happiness or even just be glad they've been able to experience life and the good things it can bring - rather than just never being?

    Michael

    I'm not sure if death is harsher than a particularly hard life. It's hard to compare because we really don't know what death entails. Even if it's just non-existence, I don't think I could make a value judgement about that.

    My main point was not to say that death is better than other options, but rather just to present the mother's side because it is a complex situation and sometimes I don't feel that some people that are 100% pro-life understand the kind of situations a mother might be in. Women who have abortions are often talked about as if they are sluts, lazy, heartless, even blood thirsty killers. For this reason, many women who've had abortions never tell anyone and I think that's sad for any woman to have to carry a secret like that when she needs the emotional support of friends and family. That's why I think we should all try to at least consider where they are coming from. It's not an easy decision.

    BTW, no hard feelings. I like a good discussion and that means hearing opposing sides. Personally, I'm by no means 100% on either side of the debate. I do, however, have a habit of being the "Devil's Advocate" in these types of debates. So I'm definitely used to people's objections ;)
  • edited July 2005
    I'm not taking a position on artificial termination of pregnancy. What puzzles me is why death is seen as being 'harsh' or, even, a bad thing.

    I've been thinking about death a lot lately which has kind of got me down. Obviously, I can't avoid death and I won't know what it even entails until I get there (if then). I probably will just cease to be, at least as I define myself. The thought of non-existence is very scary to me, but I've been thinking that if I must die, then perhaps I should try to find good in it. Things were so much easier when I thought I was going to go sing with the angels for eternity :(
  • comicallyinsanecomicallyinsane Veteran
    edited July 2005
    How do you know something won't happen?
  • edited July 2005
    I don't know for sure. I wouldn't even call it a belief. I would say that it's an expectation based on what I know so far of biology, physics, etc. While there is no proof that death=nonexistence, I see it as my default position given that I have not seen evidence otherwise.
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