Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Condemns House Vote on "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" (H.R. 2436)
Pelavin: "This bill is not about protecting women from violent acts; it is about restricting abortion in America.... Let us not be fooled into believing that the "Unborn Victim of Violence" Act is a compassionate, pro-woman bill."
Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, October 1, 1999 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response to last night's vote in the House of Representatives approving the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" (H.R. 2436):
Last night, only three months after it was introduced, the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" passed the House of Representatives. 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 two of the cosponsors are also cosponsors of the "Violence Against Women Act of 1999" (H.R. 357) — a package designed to reauthorize and enhance programs to making our schools, streets, homes, and workplaces safer for women and children.
The measure approved by the House of Representatives last night is inappropriate and dangerous because it separates the woman from her fetus in the eyes of the law. And we believe that such separation is merely the first step towards eroding a woman's right to determine the fate of her own pregnancy and to direct the course of her own health care.
Taking such a step backwards in reproductive rights in the name of protecting women is particularly outrageous. This bill is not about protecting women from violent acts; it is about restricting abortion in America. This bill is about advancing an anti-choice agenda by altering federal law to elevate the fetus to an unprecedented status. In Judaism, the fetus is viewed as part of the woman's body and not a separate human being maintaining equal rights. Judaism views the life of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on the existing life than on potential life (Exodus 21: 22-23).
Warm, inclusive rhetoric does not change the character of political gamesmanship. Let us not be fooled into believing that the "Unborn Victim of Violence" Act is a compassionate, pro-woman bill. We oppose this bill because it contradicts our biblical tradition; we oppose it because it is a disingenuous assault on reproductive freedom in America; we oppose it because of the hypocrisy exhibited by so many of its primary proponents. This is wrongheaded legislation achieved in a wrongheaded way.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.