At Issue: Many are celebrating this year’s 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade court ruling. How do you view that ruling’s effect on U.S. citizens from a religious perspective?
Response: I think there is a misconception that “religious people” do not support abortion rights. In fact, at least 35 denominations and faith groups have pro-choice positions. The majority of Catholics do not agree with the official teaching of the Catholic hierarchy on abortion, and most of the traditions that officially oppose abortion find similar dissent within their ranks.
I believe the debate has gone on long enough that people are fairly clear about their beliefs about abortion. I think there is a consensus that the choice to have an abortion should be legal. At the same time, there is widespread concern that more be done to reduce the need for abortion and to provide good options for women who might want to have a child — to create the best possible situations for genuine choice.
Like many other faith traditions, the Buddhist perspective varies among branches. The Zen tradition encourages each person to make his or her decisions based on meditative awareness in interpreting precepts. Each person must make the choice and bear the consequences for every action. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama, the leader of one branch of Tibetan Buddhism, has taken the position that abortion is killing and is not a moral choice. Where there is such disagreement among people of good will, I think a pluralistic society must respect the right of individuals to make their own choices based on their own spiritual tradition.
– Rev. Dr. Deborah Barrett
Published: January 18, 2004