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Reform Jewish Leader Decries Passage of Bill Restricting Reproductive Rights

Pelavin: The defeat of the Feinstein and Murray amendments reveals the true goal of the bill: to restrict the rights of women and to codify a single religious viewpoint into law.


WASHINGTON, March 26, 2004 - In response to yesterday's passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act by the United States Senate, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

    The Reform Jewish Movement decries the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in the Senate. While the authors of this deceptive bill profess that it is intended to protect victims of violent crimes, the defeat of the Feinstein and Murray amendments reveals the true goal of the bill: to restrict the rights of women and to codify a single religious viewpoint into law.

    Potential life is sacred, and the loss of a pregnancy is tragic, but the Unborn Victims of Violence Act exploits these issues in an effort to undermine the foundation for legal abortion in this country. By not passing the Murray amendment, which would have given women further protection from domestic violence, the bill's supporters failed to provide real protection for victims of violence. Instead, they focused their efforts on elevating the status of a potential human life to that of a woman, a strategic step forward in the anti-choice hardliners' crusade to deprive women of their Constitutional right to reproductive choice.

    Furthermore, in bestowing upon a fetus, zygote, or embryo the same rights and protections as the law gives a living human being, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act delivers a blow to religious liberty in this country. There is no scientific consensus on when human life begins, and different religious traditions offer different answers. The view that human life begins at conception is contrary to Jewish tradition and to the teachings of other religions, but the Unborn Victims of Violence Act would write that view our nation's laws. That the bill's supporters rejected the Feinstein amendment, which sets up similar penalties but avoids entangling Congress in religious debates, reveals a determination to establish religious opinion as legal fact.

    The Senate's decision today fails this country's women and the true victims of violence. We call on President Bush to ensure that this divisive, harmful bill does not become law.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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