Volume 5, 1998
Abortion, Ambiguity, and Exorcism
William R. LaFleur
University of Pennsylvania
In Japan, persons who have had abortions but believe that a fetus has more value than merely disposable matter may act on that belief, most commonly by making a ritual apology to the spiritual aspect of the fetus, referred to as a mizuko or “child of the waters.” R. Zwi Werblowsky wrote a scathing attack on the practice of mizuko kuyô across the board, claiming that it has been nothing more than a scam from beginning to end. And now, in Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan, Helen Hardacre has given us a study which, in essence, makes much the same claim. The issues Hardacre raises are important, not just for an understanding of Japanese religion but because of what they may tell us about the state of our own debates in North America. By this I mean not only our debates about abortion but also about religion, especially as expressed in societies different from our own.