I am looking for the response of any denomination that is against abortion in the case of rape that has also responded to the scenario below or something similar to it.

"A Defense of Abortion" (Thomson):

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

It is said later that:

Critics of Thomson's argument generally grant the permissibility of unplugging the violinist, but seek to block the inference that abortion is permissible by arguing that there are morally relevant differences between the violinist scenario and typical cases of abortion.

But it is unsourced. :(

To make my intentions clear, the above is an analogy for a female being raped and impregnated by a male. Some denominations claim that the female is obliged to carry the child to birth if medically practical because the child is innocent of his/her father's sins, has a right to life, etc etc etc.

(Assume ideal conditions such as medical complications not being present so the mother and child are healthy, the mother can give birth, the mother and the father are not close relatives, a proper hospital is available and can be afforded, an adoption agency is available etc etc etc)

So do those arguments apply to the violinist too? What are the "morally relevant differences" ? I understand that Thomson was defending abortion in non-rape cases, but let us consider only rape cases.

What's the difference? Why are women responsible for carrying a child, who she did not consent to carrying, to birth but people are not responsible for caring for a violinist who they were attached to without consent?

I am not saying women are not responsible, but if they are, it looks like everyone is responsible for the violinist.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that I'm looking for any denomination's response, probable response based on teachings or relevant teachings. Naturally, I'm not asking what "Hinduism" thinks or would think.

Thanks to all. I'm new to site so please go easy on me in feedback and editing. :)

2 Answers 2


Your question carries with it many modern secular Western pre-conceived ideas as to what is is good and bad and as to where a person's obligations lie or do not lie. A materialist will see only what is good for their immediate well being as good.

Self-sacrifice is the basis of all religions. If one accepts that one is only the body and that one's primary aim and goal is one's own happiness in this world, then there may exist a moral dilemma as to whether or not to have an abortion. All religions assert that giving up of one's self for others is the greater good. In Christianity, Christ, when asked, listed two commandments as the greatest - the second being - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Hinduism says that we are all the same oneness, so what I do to others I am doing to myself.

Hinduism teaches that the 'soul' enters the present birth at the time of conception. So to do any abortion under any circumstances is seen as killing. Swami Nikhilananda says in Hindu Ethics (The Upanishads, V2):

According to the general Upanishadic view the value of an action is to be judged by the degree of personal sacrifice involved. An action is judged by meritorious if it involves a denial of personal comfort (tapas) together with renunciation (nyasa) on the doer's part, though the action in itself may not be conducive to the immediate well-being of others.

But the objective value of action is not denied. The Chhandogya Upanishad (III. 17.) describes life as a sacrifice (yajna) which is to be performed by the advanced soul without any external ceremonies. In this sacrifice the gifts (which must accompany a sacrifice) are enumerated as austerities (tapas), liberality (danam), righteousness (arjavam), non-violence (ahimsa), and truthfulness (satyavachanam).

A Hindu's objective in this world is not to make one's own body happy and content, A Hindu's duties are to their advancement and escape from the world of karma and this is done through self-sacrifice. To renounce the world means to give up one's own pleasures to help others. For a woman to sacrifice her own well being for a child of uncertain parentage is true renunciation. So a mother with an unborn child is still a mother and has the same duties to the child regardless of the parentage.

In his Complete Works (V4, p 469-70), Swami Vivekananda states that there are numerous examples throughout Hindu scriptures of people of questionable parentage who have been raised up by dint of their superior learning, valor, or spirituality. Vasishtha, Narada (mother a maidservant, father unknown), Satyakama Jabala (mother a maidservant, father unknown), Vyasa, Kripa, Drona, Karna to name some.

The ethics of the violinist example is not comparable to the abortion example, and therefore not relevant. The violinist choose to plug you up against your will, one of the two affected parties did the action, only one party was non-consensual. An unborn child of uncertain parentage did not choose to plug into its mother; in fact neither of the affected parties asked for the plug up, it was a third party that did so, neither of the affected parties gave their assent. If anything, the unborn child is more aptly comparable to the 'you' in the violinist example, and not to the violinist, as the unborn child 'wakes up' plugged into its mother.

  • The case of the violinist does not mention whether the kidnapping had the consent of the violinist, or the fans usurped him as well by force, so I don't get so much of the "two people consented" thing. I am also not able to catch how it's not comparable or relevant. But the last three lines, " comparable to 'you' " is a fantastic point and special plus 1 for it.
    – Whirl Mind
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 17:47
  • This arguement is BS in every single case. For one the baby comes into being through procreation while the violinist already existed. Number 2 in this case one can argue it is self defense and the natural right to live which means you are morally correct for sparing your life. In procreation you in the majority of cases did actions to bring that human organism into being and hence are solely responsible for it unless the general routine pregnancy isn't what is occuring and you could be seriously injured from such.
    – Haridasa
    Commented Apr 24 at 17:28

The Hindu scriptures say, 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma', that Ahimsa is the highest of all dharma.


While it's a different matter that everyone is not capable of practising it, that is set as an ideal and a benchmark for everyone is to aspire for.

If I were the 'you' in the violinist, I would use this rule to NOT unplug myself from the violinist, given that the event has happened and destiny has placed a possible beneficiary and a unique one at that, whom I alone can help, next to me on my bed. The highest choices are born out of Prema (Universal Love) and one that realizes the Unity of all beings and how divinity pervades everything. If you think I am idealistic and won't practise it, well, I have only my self-confidence to state my position now. Hopefully my sense of fundamental discrimination will serve me well then, as it does now, when I really face the situation.

So, let alone using the violinist case to argue for abortion, I would use the Ahimsa dictum to argue against unplugging the violinist.

However, in Hinduism, I have ironically found Dharma to be both contextual and as a fundamental backdrop that transcends context. Where it is contextual, it takes into account all parameters in a situation, all the actors, their constraints, where they come from and who is advising them and in some cases, the karmic preparation for future events. Where it transcends context, it would often be based on the Atma Dharma, the Dharma that is based on the Advaitic unity of all beings, unconditional love and universal good. There are examples of both. The story of Dharmva Vyadha, for instance, presents the difference between the dharma of caring for one's family and the apparent dharma of following a butcher profession.

You must note that, for this reason, Hinduism's concept of Dharma is never hypothetical, because hypothetical cases do not take into account, the actors' preparation, his motive and attitude, his subtle expectations and hidden desires. When Rishis advise on Dharma contextually, it's implicit that they do so considering these, in a guru-disciple way. Another reason, why very real cases of rape, cannot be compared to the very hypothetical case of the violinist kidnapping.

For instance, Eklavya offered his thumb knowing well Drona was being unfair, but the Pandavas went to war after suffering injustice for a while, but not forever. One could have expected Krishna to argue based on the Unity of all beings, and advised Arjuna to understand the oneness and NOT to go to war, but he did precisely the opposite, because the war has to be considered in the context of the widespread Adharma at the time, the Kaurava history and wrongdoings and the duty of a warrior and a ruler in the face of injustice and molestation.

In this case, therefore, I would leave it to the mother in question. In that sense, my answer is pro-choice (understandably in total conflict with my stand on the violinist case above). Which is why probably, as Swami Vishwananda says in the other answer, they may not be comparable.

Why pro-choice ? Mainly because it is rape. If the mother can use the transcending nature of Dharma (Ahimsa etc) to make the choice to have the baby, I would think of that as a higher choice. But, if that is not to be, such realization and preparation of the woman's mind and elevation to think from Universal Unity cannot be achieved by her, particularly after the depressing conditions of rape. She would, and can, as a natural choice, choose to abort her baby, for the obvious well-known reasons. She may be often unaware of the karmic consequence of the abort action, while she is quite aware of the troubling material consequences of having the baby. Such knowledge into the intricate nature of karma, most of us do not have. So, for her, it has to be a choice between the devil and the deep sea and her choice to abort would be understandable even if not ideal. And aside of advising her on all possible perspectives, no one should force an option on her, because such force itself will alter the parameters and influence her attitude towards the baby. If I were her, I would have the baby. If I were the Rishi advising her, I would leave it to her, with a recommendation of having the baby.

  • No scriptual context lol also have you read any scriptures?
    – Haridasa
    Commented Apr 24 at 17:16

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