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Reform Movement Condemns House Approval of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2001 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response to yesterday's vote in the House of Representatives approving the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001(H.R. 503):

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives took the first steps of the 107th Congress toward restricting the rights of women, approving the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001 (H.R. 503). Acts of violence against women, particularly pregnant women, are tragic and should be condemned and punished appropriately. This bill, however, lacks any true protections for pregnant women, the principal victims of these crimes, and does nothing to help solve the underlying problem - violence against women.

    Disingenuously packaged as an effort to protect pregnant women, this legislation is a deceptive and dangerous attack on a woman's right to reproductive choice, as informed by her conscience, her faith, her family, and her doctor's advice. Based on a Biblical verse reflecting the very situation this bill addresses, Jewish law views the fetus as part of the woman's body, thus establishing the life of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on the existing life than on potential life (Exodus 21: 22-23).

    As noted by Justice Harry Blackmun in the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, "It should be sufficient to note briefly the wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question. There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live birth… It appears to be the predominant, though not the unanimous, attitude of the Jewish faith…It may be taken to represent also the position of a large segment of the Protestant community…those in the Church [would] recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception. The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church…this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well…" Enshrining one religious view into law in contradiction to other deeply held religious beliefs will have a deeply divisive impact on our nation.

    During the floor debate, many Representatives spoke of the protection of women as the core value in this bill; they spoke of the protection of the fetus and mother. Many claimed criminals should be placed in jail for abusing a woman and her fetus. How ironic then, that only twenty one of the one hundred and one co-sponsors of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001 also chose to be co-sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 - a bill which reauthorized and enhance programs to make our schools, streets, homes, and workplaces safer for women and children.

    We thus condemn yesterday's vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001, the first anti-choice vote of this Congress, because it contradicts our religious tradition; we condemn it because it is a disingenuous assault on reproductive freedom in America; we condemn it because it will add absolutely nothing to the protection of women from violent assault.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.

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