Abortion

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Ben
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Re: Abortion

Post by Ben » Sun May 12, 2013 5:15 am

That is indeed, sad, Aloka. I just think its a little bizarre that the doctors did not remove the dead foetus.
I wonder whether all the relevant facts have been reported.
kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Abortion

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sun May 12, 2013 9:26 am

Will wrote:Perhaps if the mods would move this post to Classical Theravada the subject of abortion could be discussed exclusively from the classic Dhamma texts.
While I understand your desire to get at "what the Buddha taught" here, trying to form an opinion on abortion in today's world based on the suttas is like trying to form an opinion on modern warfare by reading Sun Tzu - you might get some generalities and vague suggestions regarding timeless ethical questions, but the cultural and technological gaps leave any specific judgments up in the air.

We know that obviously abortion was considered killing a human being in the Buddha's time, and we know that the classic Theravada position is that citta arises at conception. However, modern medical science shows fairly distinctly that this is not the case, while newly developed theories regarding the rights of women over their own bodies also add dimensions to the issue that simply did not exist 2,500 years ago. If ethical teachings, or even monastic rules, were formulated based on a flawed, pre-scientific understanding of how human life develops, then there is no reason why we as Buddhists must necessarily adhere to them once more accurate theories are developed. This is not to say that we must declare abortion to be 100% okay immediately, but we should be open to discussing exactly why it is considered killing in traditional Buddhist thought, and whether or not the justification for such a classification still holds up today - and, most importantly, we should be honest enough to admit that, "Well, because the suttas say so" is not always the end of the conversation.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

Dennenappelmoes
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Re: Abortion

Post by Dennenappelmoes » Sun May 12, 2013 11:10 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Will wrote:Perhaps if the mods would move this post to Classical Theravada the subject of abortion could be discussed exclusively from the classic Dhamma texts.
While I understand your desire to get at "what the Buddha taught" here, trying to form an opinion on abortion in today's world based on the suttas is like trying to form an opinion on modern warfare by reading Sun Tzu - you might get some generalities and vague suggestions regarding timeless ethical questions, but the cultural and technological gaps leave any specific judgments up in the air.

We know that obviously abortion was considered killing a human being in the Buddha's time, and we know that the classic Theravada position is that citta arises at conception. However, modern medical science shows fairly distinctly that this is not the case, while newly developed theories regarding the rights of women over their own bodies also add dimensions to the issue that simply did not exist 2,500 years ago. If ethical teachings, or even monastic rules, were formulated based on a flawed, pre-scientific understanding of how human life develops, then there is no reason why we as Buddhists must necessarily adhere to them once more accurate theories are developed. This is not to say that we must declare abortion to be 100% okay immediately, but we should be open to discussing exactly why it is considered killing in traditional Buddhist thought, and whether or not the justification for such a classification still holds up today - and, most importantly, we should be honest enough to admit that, "Well, because the suttas say so" is not always the end of the conversation.
:goodpost: Very well put! :anjali:

As I've mentioned around here before, there is reason to believe some teachings are deliberately vaguely put (e.g. right livelihood or sexual misconduct) so that they can be adapted to fit any (future) society. And of course, then the key thing is to be very careful only to approve things purely out of sincere conviction in their wholesome result. A conviction, in turn, derived from the teachings.

Zakattack
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Re: Abortion

Post by Zakattack » Sun May 12, 2013 11:33 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:We know that obviously abortion was considered killing a human being in the Buddha's time...
Evidence? Does the Vinaya view about citta conform with any sutta attributable to Buddha? If this matter has the "obvious" importance being inferred, why only teachings for monks & nuns about abortion?
Dennenappelmoes wrote:As I've mentioned around here before, there is reason to believe some teachings are deliberately vaguely put (e.g. right livelihood or sexual misconduct)...
Are the teachings vague or is our understanding vague? The teachings about these matters seem quite straightforward.

:alien:

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Will
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Re: Abortion

Post by Will » Sun May 12, 2013 2:18 pm

As yogurt put it: "trying to form an opinion on abortion in today's world based on the suttas". Very true, but I was not trying to form my opinion or anyone's else's. I simply wanted to get many Theravadin sources on the subject and discuss how abortion was viewed THEN not now.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

corrine
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Re: Abortion

Post by corrine » Sun May 12, 2013 6:31 pm

I have always felt that the whole subject of abortion could be avoided if we human beings could be rational and accept that young women have sex and plan accordingly. Meaning preventing conception in the first place. In today's modern world contraception should be free and available to anyone who wishes it. Contraception in the form of pills, barrier methods, and norplant, which can be inserted in a young girl's arm to avoid conception without even thinking. Yes, ideally, the young should avoid sex until they are ready for a family, but that is not the case and I wonder if it ever has been. In my youth, abortion was illegal and contraception completely unavailable to unmarried women and sometimes to married women. Everyone knew of someone who died due to illegal abortions or families that were struggling to feed children they could not afford.

Here in the u.s.a. there are still many who do not want under age young women to have access to birth control. The strange thing is that when these women do get pregnant and give birth, neither do these people want to help the young woman raise that child.

To me, none of this makes sense. Maybe we think of unwanted pregnancy as punishment for having sex. Regardless, the entire issue of abortion can be avoided by decent planning and teaching our young to prevent pregnancy. As long as hormones exist, the young will have sex at inappropriate times and before they are ready. This is a fact and all of the discussions of the morality of sex are irrelevant. Avoid the pregnancy and we will avoid the abortion issues.

corrine :namaste:

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Abortion

Post by Lazy_eye » Sun May 12, 2013 6:45 pm

Here is Bhante Sujato's suggestion:
We should understand that Buddhists do not generally accept that if something is wrong it must necessarily be made illegal. Such matters must be considered in their social context. Making abortion illegal makes criminals out of women who may often be going through a traumatic experience. And it leaves the market wide-open to unscrupulous practitioners

I would suggest that a more humane approach would be to make abortion and other such technologies legal, but very closely monitored. We must ensure that we, and our sons and daughters, are provided with all the information, guidance, and support we need to enable us to make such life and death decisions responsibly. Children should be given explicit and thorough education at school in the relevant biological, sexual, ethical, and religious issues. When a woman seeks an abortion, she and the father should be provided with detailed information and personal counseling before making the final decision. Our society must accept that addressing the issue of abortion involves not just making moral judgements and providing medical services, but also education in contraception and in responsible relationships. We must offer women a meaningful alternative through adequate child support and social services.

One implication of the gradualist approach to this question is that the moral gravity and kammic consequences of carrying out an abortion will increase each day as the pregnancy continues. Thus it is imperative that we read, discuss, and think about the issues before an unwanted pregnancy occurs. This will hopefully help us to act more responsibly, to consider the issues with a clearer mind, and to make a mature, reasoned decision without undue delay.
Also relevant here, perhaps: birth control is not considered wrong from the Buddhist perspective, at least not according to Ven. Payutto and other sources I've seen.

Coyote
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Re: Abortion

Post by Coyote » Sun May 12, 2013 6:58 pm

Both Corrine and Bhante Sujato's idea's sound reasonable to me, to problem is in implementing them.
Having an absolute ban on abortion would not make sense unless we are seeking to create the perfect world where everything akusala is illegal.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
Iti 26

Zakattack
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Re: Abortion

Post by Zakattack » Sun May 12, 2013 10:37 pm

Coyote wrote:the problem is in implementing them...having an absolute ban on abortion would not make sense unless we are seeking to create the perfect world where everything akusala is illegal.
Should Buddhists concern themselves with these matters? Are the five precepts training rules for individuals that chose to voluntarily undertake them? Are we possibly turning the five precepts into the 'Five Commandments'? Do our moral obligations end with our own lives, those of our families & those that seek refuge in us?

:alien:

Dennenappelmoes
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Re: Abortion

Post by Dennenappelmoes » Sun May 12, 2013 11:31 pm

Zakattack wrote:
Dennenappelmoes wrote:As I've mentioned around here before, there is reason to believe some teachings are deliberately vaguely put (e.g. right livelihood or sexual misconduct)...
Are the teachings vague or is our understanding vague? The teachings about these matters seem quite straightforward.

:alien:
Vague was a poor choice of words, sorry for the confusing statement I made. What I meant is underspecified. It is not defined right down to the level of the exact actions that a person should or should not take. Some of these details vary from culture to culture, so rather than giving a list of wrong professions and wrong sexual acts, it relies on the honest interpretation of the follower of the path to understand the "right" in "right livelihood" and the "mis" in "sexual misconduct" in which steering clear of suffering and ignorance are the lead. At least, that is how I and a few teachers I'm familiar with view it :smile:

Bakmoon
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Re: Abortion

Post by Bakmoon » Mon May 13, 2013 1:25 am

Will wrote:As yogurt put it: "trying to form an opinion on abortion in today's world based on the suttas". Very true, but I was not trying to form my opinion or anyone's else's. I simply wanted to get many Theravadin sources on the subject and discuss how abortion was viewed THEN not now.
The Vinaya says that it is a Parajika offense for a monk to be involved in an abortion after the consciousness has manifested itself. That is stated in Parajika 3 in the Sutta Vibhanga.

Ajahn Brahm discusses the issue of abortion in regards to the canonical material in this article which may be helpful:
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books7/Ajahn ... _Begin.pdf
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Abortion

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon May 13, 2013 1:28 am

Zakattack wrote:
Coyote wrote:the problem is in implementing them...having an absolute ban on abortion would not make sense unless we are seeking to create the perfect world where everything akusala is illegal.
Should Buddhists concern themselves with these matters? Are the five precepts training rules for individuals that chose to voluntarily undertake them? Are we possibly turning the five precepts into the 'Five Commandments'? Do our moral obligations end with our own lives, those of our families & those that seek refuge in us?

:alien:
That is a very good point.

In my opinion, it really should be a personal choice undertaken by individuals. The problem is that, in some countries, religion is closely linked to the state -- and the laws are shaped by the moral norms of the state religion. Happens in Catholic countries such as Ireland, and also in Buddhist ones such as Thailand or Sri Lanka.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Mon May 13, 2013 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

binocular
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Re: Abortion

Post by binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 10:42 am

Lazy_eye wrote:In my opinion, it really should be a personal choice undertaken by individuals. The problem is that, in some countries, religion is closely linked to the state -- and the laws of the shaped by the moral norms of the state religion. Happens in Catholic countries such as Ireland, and also in Buddhist ones such as Thailand or Sri Lanka.
The inverse is also true: there is the strong and popular view that not engaging in sex or engaging in sex only when desiring to have children is abnormal, pathological.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Abortion

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon May 13, 2013 10:52 am

Not quite sure what you mean by "the inverse" here. Celibacy should also be a personal choice undertaken by individuals. Why should the state be involved in such a decision?

As for when a couple should or should not have sex -- I would say that's for the couple to decide.

binocular
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Re: Abortion

Post by binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 6:40 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Not quite sure what you mean by "the inverse" here. Celibacy should also be a personal choice undertaken by individuals. Why should the state be involved in such a decision?
When standard psychological assessment tests (such as those students have to take in college or as part of the medical exam when getting tested whether one is capable for work) include questions about one's sexuality, and answering celibacy gets one rated as suspicious - then the state obviously has something to do with it.

To say nothing of the general negative attitude that society has toward people who have more conservative views about sex.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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