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What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?

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Updated January 30, 2014

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Hinduism
What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?

Statue of Hindu Dieties

Photo Courtesy of Allaahuakbar
Hinduism encourages procreation within marriage, yet there is no opposition against contraception. Most Hindus accept that there is a duty to have a family during that stage of one’s life. So they are unlikely to use birth control to avoid having children altogether.

Traditional Hindu texts praise large families (which was normal in ancient times). Yet, Hindu scriptures that applaud small families also exist which emphasize the development of a positive social conscience. So family planning is seen as an ethical good. The Upanishads (texts delineating key Hindu concepts) describe birth control methods, and some Hindu scriptures contain advice on what a couple should do to promote conception (thus providing a type of contraceptive advice).

Contraception views vary widely among Hindu scholars. Although Gandhi advocated abstinence as a form of birth control, Radhakrishnan (a key Indian philosopher) and Tagore (the most prolific writer in modern Indian literature) encouraged the use of artificial contraceptive methods. Arguments in favor of birth control are drawn from the moral teachings of Hinduism. The Dharma (doctrine of the religious and moral codes of Hindus) emphasizes the need to act for the sake of the good of the world. Some Hindus, therefore, believe that producing more children than one or the environment can support goes against this Hindu code. Although fertility is important, conceiving more children than can be supported is treated as violating the Ahimsa (nonviolent rule of conduct).

In 1971, abortion was legalized in India, and there has very rarely been any objections to it. India has a high population, so discussion about contraception focuses more on overpopulation rather than moral or personal ethics. India was the first nation to establish a governmental population strategy based on birth control measures.

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