The following remarks were given by Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Chief Relationships Officer at Faith Commons and RAC-TX core team member, at a faith leader press conference on May 4, 2021. The event was sponsored by Just Texas in opposition to the multitude of anti-abortion legislation pending in the Texas legislature.
In a democracy founded upon freedom of religion, and constitutionally bound to separation of church and state, all our faith traditions are best served by the miracles that scientific discovery has to offer. Most of us believe that modern science and medicine are gifts from a higher authority and should be utilized for healing, alongside faith and prayer. Jewish oral law asserts, “True healing is the result of efficacious prayer. But not every person merits such consequences.
Human beings, therefore, have to rely on medicine, too, through the permission granted by medical practitioners to administer treatment, who in turn are religiously bound to perform their duty. If they withhold treatment, they are regarded as one who sheds blood. In addition, the sages teach, “one should not occupy themselves with medical treatment unless they are an expert and there is none other greater than they; for if so, that person is regarded as one who sheds blood.” (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 336)
If passed, House Bill 1515 will endanger and sacrifice the lives of women, children, and health care providers. With this bill, the government overrides the best practices of doctors and clergy alike and are regarded, according to Jewish law, as murderers.
As clergy of different faith traditions and even within our own traditions we may differ in our beliefs about when life begins. But we all agree that once life begins, it should be preserved and protected to the greatest extent possible.
HB 1515 does not serve Texans of any faith. It does not serve the nascent lives it claims to protect. Today in Texas, women are dying from conditions either caused or exacerbated by pregnancy. A disproportionate number of them are poor women and Women of Color. These are often women who already have children, children who are left without a mother to care for them.
Today in Texas, a girl too young to know she can even get pregnant can become pregnant and not know what is happening to her for weeks or even months. An older girl or woman might suspect she is pregnant, but not have the cash on hand to purchase a pregnancy test. If she is pregnant, she might be one of the 20 percent of Texans who lack health insurance, so she won’t be able to get prenatal or postpartum care if she can’t pay for it out of pocket.
We need to tell our state senators and representatives as well as our governor and lieutenant governor that we are “Pro-Lives,” not just “Pro-life,” and we expect them to be, too.
What does it mean to be “Pro-Lives”?
It means protecting the ability of physicians to provide comprehensive reproductive care to their patients instead of criminalizing live-saving medical procedures.
It means expanding access to medical care, instead of closing clinics that serve poor people and people who live in rural areas, denying parents and children resources they depend on to stay healthy and well.
It means radically expanding access to tools that help women avoid unintended pregnancy, like comprehensive, medically accurate sex education and contraception.
Elected officials who are “Pro-lives” rely on science to protect women and families instead of slogans to protect their longevity in the Texas State Legislature. Those are the people who deserve to serve us, and if they do so with integrity and faith, they will merit their reelection.
We call upon our state lawmakers to defeat these bills which threaten lives rather than protect them, and to turn their attention to passing the many pro-lives bills languishing in committees right now.
Texas HB 1515/SB 8 passed the House of Representatives on May 6, 2021. Urge Governor Abbott to veto this dangerous piece of legislation at RAC.org/TXabortionban.