Contact: Raanan Weintraub, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON April 4, 2000 — In anticipation of tomorrow's debate on the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act," Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wrote to all members of the House of Representatives encouraging them to oppose this legislation.
The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's letter follows:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, whose membership includes 895 congregations, encompassing 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing more than 1,700 rabbis, we urge you to vote against the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2000" (H.R. 3660) .
As in other religions, in Judaism there are different interpretations of Jewish laws and teachings, and we respect and welcome debate on these issues. However, this debate should remain among those who practice our faith, not on the floor of Congress.
The debate surrounding reproductive choice speaks to one of the basic foundations upon which our country was established -- the freedom of religion. It speaks to the right of individuals to be moral decision makers, making choices based on their religious beliefs and traditions as well as their consciences. No single religion should have the ability to limit the rights and actions of all Americans by having the legislature codify its tenets.
All life is sacred in Judaism. Although an unborn fetus is precious and is to be protected, Judaism views the life of the mother as paramount placing a higher value on existing life that on potential life (Exodus 21: 22-23). Women are commanded to care for the health and well being of the their bodies above all else. It is due to the intrinsic Jewish belief in the sanctity of life that abortion is viewed as both a moral and correct decision under certain circumstances.
In addition, we are concerned about the language of the bill itself. Given the fact that the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act" uses vague and non-medical language to describe the prohibited procedures, it would be very difficult for anyone, whether clergy or physician, to be certain about which medical procedures would be banned. Given the bill's nebulous language and the importance of the issue, we find it difficult to engage in a theological debate on this matter.
Abortion is a deeply personal issue. Women are capable of making moral decisions, often in consultation with their clergy, families and physicians, on whether or not to have an abortion. We believe that religious matters are best left to religious communities, not politicians.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to oppose the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2000" (H.R. 3660).
Rabbi David Saperstein
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.