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 SuttaStuff I write about things.