Reform Jewish Movement Urges Senate to Oppose So-Called “Partial-Birth” Abortion Ban Bill
Saperstein: We believe that religious matters are best left to religious communities, and decisions about health and what constitutes a life-saving procedure should be left to physicians.
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WASHINGTON, August 1, 2002 - This week, following the passage of H.R. 4965, a bill banning the abortion procedure intact dilation and extraction (intact D & X), often improperly referred to as "partial-birth" abortion, the Reform Movement praised those in the House of Representatives with the courage to oppose this bill and urged the Senate to defeat the legislation. Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We are dismayed by the disregard shown for women's lives and health by those voting in favor of this dangerous bill. H.R. 4965 bans a procedure used to save lives. The bill's proponents have used inflammatory and inaccurate rhetoric about "infanticide" and so-called "partial-birth" abortion in a nationwide strategy to further their goal of ending legal abortion. These legislators contend that the bill bans only one abortion procedure, but the vague and broadly worded legislation indicates another motive: undermining support for the freedom to choose. Moreover, the continual refusal to consider amending the bill to include an exemption to save the life of a woman makes clear the political agenda at hand.
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). Whenever the fetus threatens the life of or threatens significant damage to the woman's health, abortion is regarded not only as moral but as required. The great physician and rabbi Maimonides stated "if a woman is in hard labor…her life takes precedence over its life." 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.
Abortion is a deeply personal issue. Women are capable of making moral decisions, often in consultation with their clergy, families and physicians, about whether or not to have an abortion. We believe that religious matters are best left to religious communities, and decisions about health and what constitutes a life-saving procedure should be left to physicians.
We urge the Senate to act to ensure that women's lives are safeguarded. By defeating the ban on intact D & X, the Senate can ensure that a woman, in consultation with her doctor and a member of the clergy, continues to have the right to make personal decisions.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .