"Abortion As a Sacrament"
Leaving that argument aside, this is far more interesting, and contentious:
- Although it is condoned, abortion is not treated casually by traditional Japanese culture. The life of the aborted embryo or fetus is honored through a ritual practice called mizuko jizo. Mizuko means "child of the water" and is used to refer to the soul of a child who has been returned to the gods. Jizo is the name of the Buddhist god who protects and guides that soul on its journey to another world. The parents purchase a doll, adorn it and enshrine it in a temple, where it is cared for by priests.
Abortion is regarded as the parents deciding to return a child to the gods, sending a child to a temporary place until such time that it is right for the child to come into this world, either into the same family or another one. The child is returned because the parents, at that time, would be unable to provide enough love, money or attention to this child without it being to the detriment of their present family. Practicing mizuko jizo allows the parents to provide a certain amount of attention to the child, who is seen as a member of their family, to apologize to the child and to ask for forgiveness from the child for being unable to bring it up.
Honoring the life of the embryo or fetus transforms abortion from a sin to a sacrament. To understand that a tiny embryo must sometimes be sacrificed for the greater good of the family or the human species as a whole is the moral high ground that we stand on today.
- There is no common or public practice of rites for aborted fetuses in Korea as is practiced in Japan. There are no red bibbed statues of Ksitigarbha (Japanese: Jizo; Korean: Chijang) to be found on streets and cemeteries in Korea like you can observe in Japan. Nor are there commercial newspaper ads for mizuko kuyo ("water baby offering rites") as found in the Japanese press. Japan has thousands of temples where aborted fetuses are memorialized; Korea probably has no more than ten or twelve sanctuaries where ceremonies for aborted babies are performed.