Australia is a multicultural society and it also embraces its diverse population and even propagates the same. Each individual is given the right to live in a free manner, as per the drawn rules, and included in this freedom is the freedom of religion. When it particularly comes to the minority communities, they have been granted different minority rights in order them to follow their culture and religion (Huxley, 2012). However, a public sphere debate with regards to the policies of the state, with a specific reference to the religious communities revolves around abortion and family planning (Bottoni, Cristofori and Ferrari, 2016). This discussion is focused upon this very issue and so the focus would be on the debates revolving around policies of the state, and how they clash/ interplay/ collide with the religious communities view point about family planning and abortion.
Each religion is unique and it follows its each teachings and own beliefs. These beliefs can often clash up with the policies which have been drawn by the state, even when these policies make a strict attempt to avoid such conflict. This is not only true for Australia, but across the globe. For instance, let’s take an example of Islam in Singapore. As a result of the long-standing Malay problem, as a result of which Malay Singaporeans were socially and economically backward, the government brought out urban and economic planning in its family policies and that of the culture as well. This was meant to upgrade the population, particularly its health and education. The authorities of the nation regard the shapeless multiculturalism and individualism as an aspect of western decadence and this is contrasted by the Confucian Asia’s moral superiority. Hence, the up-gradation was a self assumed responsibility of the state for intervening directly in the different areas like family life, reproduction, moral and religion. The strategy of the nation towards the Muslim population is put in a nutshell in the MUIS, i.e., the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, along with the related policies meant for improving upon the Muslim education, modernizing the Sharia laws and courts and not only improving but regulating the Muslim family life as well. But such regulations are what prove the concept of secularism is not upheld by the states. By interfering with the religion of the individuals, the state does not remain separated from it (Barbalet, Possamai and Turner, 2013).
Taking an example of Israel, where a pro-natalist policy is maintained when it comes to reproductive care. In Israel, the state provides the health care and also the continuum through childbirth from family planning services. The majority of the reproductive care is funded through the Health Funds by the government. The reproductive care policy of the nation reflects the social, religious and cultural norms of Jews regarding fertility (Glenn, 2010). The Jewish culture is engrained in the personal desire for motherhood and parenthood, which is strengthened through the historical persecution of Jews in Diaspora and the genocide carried on against the people in Holocaust. And so, the pro-natalist approach of the nation is supported through the legislation which regulates the IVF, i.e., vitro fertilization, the use of semen when it comes to IVF fertilization, ova extraction, the allocation and donation of ova, and finally the surrogacy agreements. Even the right of an individual to procreate is properly recognized through the ruling of the Supreme Court and a leading example of this is the case of Nachmani v Nachmani (50(4) PD 661 (Isr)). In this case, the court held that due to the present special circumstances where it was deemed that the right of a woman was superior to the right of the husband to be a father. However, this does not mean that the woman has a full autonomy over her reproductive status. So, the woman does not have the right to terminate pregnancy. The lack of interest with regards to prosecution shows the abortion’s limited scope in the nation. Apart from funding the authorized abortions, the provisions of family planning information are funded by the State, along with the subsidized contraceptives. So, the case of Israel shows the integration of religion, i.e., of Jews in the State policies, which again shows that there is a no separation between the state and religion, even when this has been done positively (Library of Congress, 2015).
Taking an example of India, where the infringement of rights of the individuals, when it comes to abortion and family planning. The Hinduism religion has no bans over the birth control. The Mahabharata which is a key religious scripture of Hindus states that killing embryo is a sin. It also shows Dhritarashtra and Gandhari having 100 children. Another story shows King Yayati where the man is solicited by a fertile woman and does not give into her wishes and is deemed as embryo killer (Sharma, 2015). However, in India there is a policy of having two children which shows the interference of the state with religion (Abbamonte, 2017). If a person conceives third child, the state policy requires them to abort such child, but if such person is Hindu, it would be a sin under their religion. Thus, a question is raised on the validity of freedom of religion in the nation. The state does attempt to justify its stand. Even though fertility is deemed as an important concept, if more than such children are given birth too, which can be supported by the family, it has to be deemed as Ahimsa, which is a nonviolent rule of conduct (Stacey, 2016). And the population issues have made birth control and family planning, a major ethical issue for the nation.
A debate over the church and state separation in US has at its heart, the abortion debate. The Rep, Daniel Lipinski responded to the Conference of Catholic Bishops in US urging for immigration reforms and stated that in his opinion, immigration was not as important an issue, in comparison to other matters. Some of these issues on which the church speaks quite authoritatively is the abortion issue where it deems to protect life. Lipinski deemed this as a prudential judgement informed through Catholic theology which was not something which the Catholics had to follow. He deemed that it was not wrong to exploit the public office when the same is enshrined by the faith’s understanding. This was supported by the previous Rep, Dale Kildee, when it came to debates around Affordable Care Act, 2010 (Ross, 2013). The debate around abortion is not about the rights of the women but a debate on the relationship between the government and the religion (Cherif, 2015). The opponents of abortion are just open regarding their intent of trampling the church state boundaries (Ross, 2013). UK also has its fair share of religious mix. And it is deemed that religion is a strong and a powerful influence over the attitude and behaviours of the individuals. UK has a large population of Sikhs, where abortion is allowed in exceptional cases, particularly when a serious threat is caused to the health of the woman. When it comes to birth control, the Sikhs have no objection to it. When it comes to abortion in context of Buddhists, their reliance is one reincarnation and this can be seen in the views of abortion of the Buddhists. They also deem that abortion is an act of killing, as is the case with Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Abortion, in short, is deemed as wrong in nearly every religion (FPA, 2016).
Abortion in Australia is allowed, particularly arising from family planning. However, due to the nation having a wide spread of different religions, again a conflict is raised as the abortion laws are state laws. Each state has its own policy, which is often deemed as interfering with the religion of a person. So, when the policies are drawn by the state regarding family planning, particularly when a restriction is placed over the number of children one can have, resulting in abortions, an ethical issue is raised, which gives rise to the conflict between the state and the religion, particularly as the concepts of right of religion and secularism are proved wrong. There are some states of the nation where abortion is deemed as legal and some, where it is deemed as a criminal offence. In the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, the ones who identify themselves with a religion, 23% deemed abortion as wrong. So, even when 60% of the national population stated that abortion was acceptable, the ones with religion in their mind deemed it as a wrong thing and these individuals initiate the state and religion clash debate (CRA, 2017).
To summarize the discussion, there is a conflict between religion and the state policies when it comes to the policies associated with abortion and family planning. This is particularly because the religion deems abortion carried on with the purpose of “restricted family planning” of state as a wrong thing, in any situation. It is deemed as a sin. But when the viewpoint of the state is presented, where the population control is given as the key reason for undertaking such measures, it presents a question of whether the religion, in this aspect should be given supremacy, or should the right of religion, in this aspect, continued to be curbed.
Abbamonte, J. (2017) Indian State Proposes A Two-Child Limit for Government Employees. [Online] Population Research Institute. Available from: https://www.pop.org/indian-state-proposes-a-two-child-limit-for-government-employees/ [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
Barbalet, J., Possamai, A., and Turner, B.S. (2013) Religion and the State: A Comparative Sociology. London: Anthem Press.
Bottoni, R., Cristofori, R., and Ferrari, S. (2016) Religious Rules, State Law, and Normative Pluralism - A Comparative Overview. Berlin: Springer.
Cherif, F.M. (2015) Myths about Women's Rights: How, Where, and Why Rights Advance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
CRA. (2017) Attitudes to Abortion and Approaches to Ethical Issues. [Online] CRA. Available from: https://cra.org.au/attitudes-to-abortion-and-approaches-to-ethical-issues/ [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
FPA. (2016) Religion, contraception and abortion factsheet. [Online] FPA. Available from: https://www.fpa.org.uk/factsheets/religion-contraception-abortion [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
Glenn, H.P. (2010) Legal Traditions of the World: Sustainable Diversity in Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Huxley, A. (2012) Religion, Law and Tradition: Comparative Studies in Religious Law. Oxon: Routledge.
Library of Congress. (2015) Israel: Reproduction and Abortion: Law and Policy. [Online] Library of Congress. Available from: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/il-reproduction-and-abortion/israel.php [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
Ross, R.D.S. (2013) Congress, Abortion, and the Separation of Church and State. [Online] Rewire. Available from: https://rewire.news/article/2013/09/23/congress-abortion-and-the-separation-of-church-and-state/ [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
Sharma, M. (2015) Hindu Literature Mahabharata: Questions and Answers. Bloomington: Booktango.
Stacey, D. (2016) What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?. [Online] Population Research Institute. Available from: https://www.verywell.com/what-are-religious-views-on-birth-control-906618 [Accessed on: 10/10/11]
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