Submitted by Ikram.
Abortion is hot topic issue in every U.S. election and a major right-left divide exemplified by the protests last week when honorary doctorate was conferred on President Obama at Notre Dame University http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgJoM_7zo4c. The main argument for anti-abortion movement, which is primarily a Catholic view, is that life starts at conception.
Quran addresses early life as children, which could be extended to include intrauterine period. As far as killing and maltreatment of children is concerned, Quran is very clearly against it e.g.
17:31. And do not kill your children for fear of want. It is We Who provide for them as well as for you. Indeed, the killing of them is a great sin.
6:137. Just (as their associate-gods turned the polytheists away from Allâh) so did they make (even so monstrous a deed as) the killing of their children seem fair to a large number of the polytheists, with the result that they ruin them and that they obscure for them their religion. And if Allâh had (enforced) His will they would not have done so, so leave them alone and that what they forge.
6:140. Certainly, they suffer a loss (those) who kill their children in folly (and) ignorance, and forbid (themselves) what Allâh has provided for them; forging lies in the name of Allâh. They have indeed gone astray and they are not rightly guided.
And Quran goes even further by decreeing to prevent unwanted children by banning indecencies, which Christian world protects as a right:
6:151. Say, `Come, I will rehearse to you what your Lord has made binding on you; it is that you shall associate not any thing as partner with Him, and that you shall be good to parents, and that you waste not your children because of poverty. It is We Who make provisions for you as well for them too. (Allâh has also enjoined upon you that you) approach not indecencies, whether open or hidden, and that you kill no soul which Allâh has made sacred, except in the cause of justice.’ This has He enjoined you with, so that you may (learn to) abstain (from evil).
But, where Quran differs from Catholic point of view is that it defines start of life after embryo has reached a certain level of maturity and is a separate entity from the mother tissue as follows:
23:12. We create a human being from an extract of clay;
23:13. Then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository;
23:14. Then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, thereafter We evolve him into another being. Therefore blessed be Allâh the Best of Creators.
At a molecular level, the Catholic doctrine implicitly defines start of a new separate life when the nucleic acids of both parental gametes mix. But this is a flawed argument. Mixing of different nucleic acids happens all the time e.g. when a virus infects a human cell, it embeds into the host DNA. Viral nucleic acid mixing with the host DNA is commonly called infection. And subsequently as part of host defenses there is constant shedding of such infected cells (with nucleic acids from two different sources) from the body, which cannot be termed as abortion.
As to what is that embryonic stage of another being (23:14) referred above, I would let an embryologist comment on it. By common knowledge it is probably at about a month old embryo.
[The Holy Quran – Translation by Allama Nooruddin]