Can Muslim Women Have Abortions?
Updated: Mar 28
The most recent year for reported abortions is 2018, in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 619,000 abortions. The CDC relies on voluntary reporting of abortion data from the states and the District of Columbia. Three states refuse to report their information: California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, so probably the total number is much higher than reported. The CDC also tracks the number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44) and the number of abortions per 1,000 live births. While both ratios ticked up slightly over 2017, the trend is downwards, especially since 1973 when the ruling Roe. Vs. Wade was enacted into law.
In general, Muslim scholars consider abortion as an act of interfering in Allah’s role, the only author of life and death. The Qur’an does not offer much guidance on this matter but provides direction on related issues listed below. The high priority that Islam gives to the sanctity of life is the crucial viewpoint. The Qur’an states: “We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (5:32)
Muslim tradition asserts that a fetus in the womb is recognized and protected by Islam as human life. Islam rarely permits abortion after 120 days because that is when the soul enters the fetus. However, there are several different legal schools of thought, and they have their reservations on when abortions can happen. Here are some circumstances:
When the baby is born into poverty
The Qur’an makes it clear to families that a fetus is not aborted just because of fears that they will not be able to provide for the forthcoming child – they should trust Allah to look after things: “Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin.” (17:31)
The same texts also forbid abortion on social or financial grounds, such as accidental pregnancy or that the baby will hinder the mother's life, training, or profession.
When the baby has a defect
An irreparable defect found in the fetus early in the pregnancy is an acceptable reason for abortion. Under these circumstances, many scholars would point out that it is permissible to abort, provided that the pregnancy is less than 120 days old. There is an almost unanimous opinion that after 120 days, abortion is not allowed unless the mother’s life is somehow in danger from the defect in the embryo.
When the mother’s life is at risk
There is a religious principle called “the lesser of two evils” in which an abortion can save the mother’s life. This principle only pertains to matters of life and death. If by necessity you break God’s law, then God understands. The Qur’an: 5:3, 6:119, 6:145, 16:115. Abortion is considered a lesser evil in this case because:
the mother is the “originator” of the fetus, the mother’s life is well-established
the mother has duties and responsibilities
the mother is part of a family
allowing the mother to die would also kill the fetus in most cases.
When the soul enters the baby
After the fetus receives the soul, Islam prohibits the termination of a pregnancy. There’s disagreement within Islam as to when this happens. The three prominent opinions are:
at 120 days
at 40 days (More stringent scholars rely on another tradition stating that after the first 40 days, an angel endows the fetus with hearing, sight, skin, flesh, and bones. This clearly indicates the formation of a human being, and to abort after this period is deemed forbidden.)
when the fetus moves on its own, sometimes as late as 20 weeks.
A pertinent hadith indicates that the point of ensoulment occurs in 120 days:
Allah’s Apostle, the true and truly inspired, said, “(as regards your creation), every one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for the first forty days, and then he becomes a clot for another forty days, and then a piece of flesh for another forty days. Then Allah sends an angel to write four words: He writes his deeds, time of his death, means of his livelihood, and whether he will be wretched or blessed (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into his body…” (al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549)
In the U.S., the right to have an abortion has evolved into a political schism. The pro-choice movement wants to ensure that women have the right to choose an abortion, whereas the pro-life movement wants to restrict abortions against the unjust taking of human life. The Bible provides two viewpoints on abortion. First, in Exodus 21:22-25, a life for a life applies to the unborn child’s death. Second, this opinion found in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I have set before you life and death, blessings, and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God.”
Where do the Muslim Congressmen stand on Abortion?
Representative Omar posted a series of tweets back in 2019 denouncing what she sees as "a nationwide assault on the right to an abortion" after Alabama passed a law that bans nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest.
"Reproductive freedom and the constitutional right to an abortion is under attack in many states across our nation. We must fight back against these blatant efforts to restrict and criminalize abortion," she said in one tweet.
Ilhan Omar has accused “religious fundamentalists” in the US of “trying to manipulate state laws...to impose their beliefs on an entire society” after anti-abortion bills were passed across the country.
Based on legislative votes against abortion, her score was 10% on the National Right to Life scorecard. She opposed restrictions against abortion at almost every vote.
Rep. Tlaib’s website had a May 15, 2019 press release that had this statement: “From Alabama to at home in Michigan just yesterday, a woman’s right to make decisions about her body is fundamentally under attack. Extremists are pushing draconian, blatantly unconstitutional bills that put women’s health in jeopardy - all so they can live out their gross dreams of overturning Roe v. Wade and condemning those who can become pregnant to the unsafe abortions of decades past." “These attacks are fundamentally led by white men in government who have no legal or moral authority to control our bodies, and who would surely revolt if women legislators proposed, for instance, mandatory vasectomies for all men in this country.”
Based on legislative votes against abortion, her score was 13% on the National Right to Life scorecard. She opposed restrictions against abortion at almost every vote.
On Congressman Carson’s website, his position sounds a little bit more reserved: “I believe that abortion is a difficult decision that is best made by a woman and her doctor, and I will continue to oppose attacks on women that would cut access to quality health and reproductive care services. I also believe that every effort should be made to reduce the frequency of abortions, especially by providing adequate funding for domestic and international family planning programs, especially the Title X Family Planning Program.”
However, talk is cheap.
Based on legislative votes against abortion, his score was 0% on the National Right to Life scorecard. He opposed restrictions against abortion at every vote.
To judge their respective scores against abortion and for life, compare the score of Nancy Pelosi, 0%; Kevin McCarthy, 100% and Steve Scalise, 100%.
In other words, the Muslim members of Congress vote along party lines and do not vote for the sanctity of human life.