Yesterday we marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in this country. Since that day 40 years ago, forces in this country have been trying to whittle away at the right of women to control their own bodies and reproductive health care. In the last Congress this reached a fever pitch as Planned Parenthood was constantly attacked as one of the few places where women and men can get honest answers about reproductive health care including information on abortion.
No one wants to have an abortion. As Jews we too are taught “Choose Life”. But Judaism recognizes that there are times when keeping a fetus is a threat to the life and well-being of the mother. And in Judaism the mother’s health comes first. Yes, this is different than the Catholic Church’s position and part of the fight over healthcare and insurance is when a provider’s religious belief’s is in conflict with the services it is required to provide by law.
In Jewish tradition the fetus is not a full human being. It is a potential human being. The life of the mother takes precedent.
The advent of legal abortion and access to legal abortion has made a tremendous difference in the well being of women’s lives. There has been abortion and remedies to induce an abortion dating back to ancient times. But too often women died in the process of taking oils and potions and poisons, or inserting probes and knitting needles or hangers to create a spontaneous abortion.
We cannot go back to the illegal alleys and deaths of young women.
Keeping access to abortion safe and legal for women of child bearing age and making sure that insurance covers the procedure is a key to women’s equality and freedom in our society. This is not just a women’s issue but it is an issue for men as well. Because when women are fully included and well cared for, men do better in this society as well.
I for one support Planned Parenthood, honest sex education in schools and funding for access to women’s reproductive healthcare. I do so because I believe as a woman of faith I can do no less in making sure that women have the blessing of health and well being.