Remarks by Rabbi Eric B. Stark, Director, Union for Reform Judaism – Greater New York Council, Rally Supporting the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act
New York, NY
August 4, 2005
I stand here today to condemn Gov. Pataki’s veto of the “Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act.” This bill, which passed both houses of the state legislature with significant majorities and bi-partisan support, would have greatly reduced the number of unintended pregnancies in New York State.
Some may wonder how this is a religious issue. To me, the act of giving birth is a fundamental religious issue. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. It is a commandment given to both Adam and Eve. Yet, it is a command the must neither be filled immediately nor indiscriminately. To bring a new life into the world is a sacred act. Even more sacred is to be able to make the choice over when that life will be brought forth.
Reform Judaism has a long history of supporting a woman’s right to have control over her body and over the reproductive process. We have long advocated for the availability, and use of, contraception. Regrettably, contraception sometimes fails. So too, not all acts of intercourse are the result of a loving, committed relationship. Sexual assault is a reprehensible, but present, reality in our world.
The availability of safe Emergency Contraception would increase the ability of women to control their reproductive health. It would increase the chance of children to be born into loving, welcoming homes. Finally, and most importantly, it would not be an affront to our role as God’s sacred partner in the creation of the world. Rather it would affirm that role. It would affirm our ability to use our God given talents to reduce suffering, to increase joy, and to protect women from the roulette of failed contraception and sexual assault.
Governor Pataki, you have no doubt heard many voices in this debate. I’m only sorry that you didn’t listen those assembled here. The Prophet Micah taught, “What is it that God demands of us? Only to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8) Mr. Governor, this is the just thing to do, this is the merciful thing to do, and I wish that you had had both the strength and the humility to change your mind and sign this bill into law.