The Bioethical concept of life for life: Abortion when the mother’s life is in danger in Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam


  • Rhami Khorfan University of Michigan
  • Aasim I. Padela University of Michigan



Bioethics, abortion, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam


Modern secular bioethics has focused on developing a set of universal principles to guide clinical decision making. However, this ignores the important role of religion in resolving bioethical questions. It is imperative that healthcare providers understand these belief systems in order to traverse value conflicts and provide the highest quality care to a diverse population. This paper focuses on the process of bioethical deliberation in Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. Abortion is normatively prohibited in each faith and through examining how each ethical code allows for abortion when the mother’s life is in peril due to the fetus, we highlight the value of unborn life in each faith. Orthodox Judaism uses the concept of rodef, or pursuer, to permit abortion in this scenario, Catholicism uses the moral concept of “double effect,” while Islamic law cites the maqasid, higher objectives of the law, to permit abortion in this scenario.

Author Biography

Aasim I. Padela, University of Michigan

Departments of General Internal Medicine & Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan






Original Articles