Good afternoon, Senator Hanson and Members of the Health and Human Services Committee,
I know that you have heard testimony for the past many hours from Nebraskans with passionate voices around this issue, and I appreciate your time in listening and considering our testimony today.
I am offering testimony today in opposition to LB 626. My name is Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin and I am one of the Rabbis at Temple Israel in Omaha, a Reform Jewish congregation of 650 families, and a board member of the Nebraska Religious Council for Reproductive Freedom.
The religious narrative around abortion is not monolithic, and it is critical to remember that there are people of faith who not only believe in, but whose faith traditions demand, the freedom of choice. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of American democracy, and yet, today, we are in danger of revoking this fundamental right for Nebraskans. Proposals that ban or restrict abortion access, such as LB 626, infringe upon the separation of church and state and prevent Jewish people from freely exercising their religious beliefs.
Judaism teaches that a fetus is inextricably linked to the pregnant person, and not an independent human being - a teaching found within the Bible itself. We teach that the value of pikuach nefesh, the saving of a life, is of the utmost importance and as such, abortion is considered essential, lifesaving medical care if a pregnant person's physical or mental health is in danger.
Moreover, in some instances, abortion is not only permitted, but required. Our texts teach that all life is sacred, and yet the potential life of a fetus cannot supersede the life of a pregnant person. These impossible choices must be left in the hands of pregnant people, their significant others, and their medical care teams.
Senators, I want to be clear in this - to enact one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws and ban abortions before most people even know that they are pregnant, would be a violation of our Constitutionally protected right to exercise our religion freely. Furthermore, it would serve to privilege and impose the beliefs of one religious tradition upon all Nebraskans.
Please, protect our bodily autonomy. Protect essential healthcare. Protect our religious liberty.
Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin