On January 19, hundreds of thousands of Pro-Life supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the March for Life annual event. The participants varied greatly in background and faith but were united under the central cause of eliminating abortion. The event had a significant backing from Christian groups, yet it is important to recognize the diverse array of religions that were in attendance, reflecting the broad base that the movement is welcome to expanding.
The presence of varied religious groups at the March for Life is evidence that pro-life is not beholden to any one religion. In fact, many religions have a moral position on life emphasizing the importance of respecting humanity from conception to natural death. The religions which have a moral position on life seem to sit on opposite ends of the spectrum and yet, the religions are united by their obligation to protect life.
A 2014 Ramussen Reports poll reported that over 71% of Evangelical Christians and 56% of Catholics identified as Pro-Life. This demonstrates Christianity’s great sway and consistent influence over believers, who are often found at the forefront of the cause. Pope Francis once stated, “It is necessary to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother’s womb is the quintessence of innocence.” Chocked with high-profile preachers and priests, Christianity has proved integral towards the sustenance of the Pro-Life movement.
The Washington D.C. annual March for Life website acknowledges the contributions of the Jewish community, as Cecily Routman, founder of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation, alludes to a dire Gallup poll from 2016, where it was estimated that 76% of
Jews believed that abortion was “morally acceptable.” Routman has been working to reverse this trend, citing the Jewish scriptures as the basis of the Foundation’s mission, writing, “In Deuteronomy 30:19, our Heavenly Father clearly declares, ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.’ Routman seeks to engage the broader Jewish community in this effort and is looking to expand the faith’s involvement in Pro-Life matters.
The Islamic religion and its Pro-Life endeavors in America is small but growing. Ismail Royer is an American Muslim, who enjoyed participating in the March for Life in D.C. He has also begun reaching out to Christian leaders of the movement in an effort to increase Islamic engagement with the cause. In an article for The Washington Post, he states, “If our faith communities can find the strength and courage to reconcile, our witness can serve to help heal the country as a whole.” His core message in the article is a call for Muslims to work with their Pro-Life counterparts on a variety of issues, and he delivers a renewed request for acceptance and support from majority groups across the country.
The BBC has followed the Hindu view of Pro-Life, describing, “Traditional Hinduism and many modern Hindus also see abortion as a breach of the duty to produce children in order to continue the family and produce new members of society.” The Puranas, a sacred text of Hinduism, read, “Killing a Kshatriya [knight] or a Vaishya [Merchant] engaged in sacrifice, a menstruating woman, a pregnant woman…[and]..the embryo of a stranger is tantamount to killing a Brahmin [Priest].” Due to the urgency and commanding nature of such quotes, several Hindi have found themselves entering the Pro-Life camp, in support of such teachings.
Damien Keown, an expert on Buddhist bioethics at the University of London, remarks, “Buddhism believes in rebirth and teaches that individual human life begins at conception. The new being, bearing the karmic identity of a recently deceased individual, is therefore as entitled to the same moral respect as an adult human being.” With this understanding of the fetus retaining its own ability to participate in reincarnation, it also is protected by the first precept of Buddhism, which is “you must abstain from taking life.”
“All religions try to benefit people, with the same basic message of the need for love and compassion, for justice and honesty, for contentment.” The Dalai Lama’s wise words retain particular relevance to the United States, which prides itself in its diverse collection of faiths. However, the nation’s overwhelming number of Christians, ranging from about 70% of citizens, according to Pew Research, means that we often neglect the Pro-Life narrative of other faiths.
Echoing the Dalai Lama’s outlook on other religions, it is important for a greater understanding of all beliefs, as well as an appreciation for how they contribute to the cause of saving lives. Being Pro-Life does not belong to any belief system or denomination, rather it is an idea for all religions to contribute towards and participate in.