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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Applauds Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Nebraska's

Saperstein: "As a result of this decision, health and medical information and advice about reproduction will continue to be supplied by physicians, not legislators."

Contact: Raanan Weintraub, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTONJune 28, 2000 — Reacting to today's United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Sternberg v. Carhart, in which the court ruled that Nebraska's "partial-birth abortion" statue is unconstitutional, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Today, in striking down Nebraska's restrictive abortion law, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the fundamental right of women to make their own decisions about their own bodies. As a result of this decision, health and medical information and advice about reproduction will continue to be supplied by physicians, not legislators. A woman in distress over a very difficult life decision, or a woman whose health is in danger, will not have to be dictated to by politicians. A physician in the operating room will not have to turn to a statute book for permission to provide appropriate medical care.

We welcome the Supreme Court's recognition that the term "partial-birth abortion" is non-medical and nebulous language. This language made it very difficult for anyone, whether physician, woman, or clergy, to be certain about which medical procedures would be banned under the Nebraska statute in question, and might even have resulted in outlawing even the most commonly performed abortion procedures. Even first trimester abortion procedures might have been subject to criminalization. This decision will hardly lead to a floodgate of women demanding abortion procedures. Women have access to abortion in the third trimester only in extreme circumstances, and such procedures are generally limited to cases of severe fetal abnormalities, or when the life or health of the pregnant woman is seriously threatened.

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 than on potential life (Exodus 21: 22-23). Women are commanded to care for the health and well being of 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.


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.

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