Women must have right to choose and control what happens to their own bodies

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Panorama of United States Supreme Court_Building at Dusk. Photo: hinduamerican.org

HAF (Hindu American Foundation) unwaveringly supports a woman’s right to choose and control what happens to her own body and choice to have an abortion if she believes that is the correct decision to make. As a community, we must respect this right, as well as provide guidance and assistance when it is asked for.

Rather than delegitimizing or legally restricting a woman’s right to choose, we should direct our efforts towards solutions that have proven to be successful time and time again: education, access to contraception, and open and honest discussions amongst families.

In Hinduism, samsara (the cycle of birth and rebirth) dictates that every atman (divine self) has potentially lived multiple lifetimes before and continues to experience this cycle until it has fulfilled all of its karmic burden. While there are debates as to when atman becomes individually present within a body — some believe from the time of conception; others believe much later — it is ultimately the mother who has the right and the privilege, as well as the heavy duty of responsibility, over her unborn child.

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Hindu principles are always contextual, offering guidance for how to act and how to think about a situation, rather than providing firm commandments for behavior. The Hindu principle of ahimsa (non-harming) dictates that in any situation we should strive to act in ways that minimize intentional harm. In many situations eliminating all harm is not possible; eliminating all karmic debt is not possible. Thus, we must balance and choose between varying degrees of harm. The Hindu understanding of dharma, too, plays a role in recognizing that the best course of action for any person is highly dependent on their circumstances, their stage of life, and other factors of the moment. What may be the appropriate and dharmic course of action for one person may be the incorrect course of action for another.

Ultimately, it is the mother who bears the cost of the karmic debt for choices she makes affecting her own samsara. Thus, the decision to have a child or not must remain with the mother.

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 68% of Hindu Americans believe abortion should be legal in most, if not all, cases. Additionally, most Hindus believe abortion is absolutely necessary when the mother’s life is at risk.

Hindu American Foundation logo. Photo: hinduamerican.org
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