On January 22, 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, recognizing that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to choose whether to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment. In the decades following this decision, subsequent court cases as well as state and federal laws have eroded this constitutional right, rendering abortion inaccessible, unaffordable, and out of reach for millions of Americans.
Despite the fact that 7 in 10 Americans support the right to legal abortion, access to abortion services is limited by restrictions such as geography (90 percent of counties in the U.S. are without any abortion providers), mandatory waiting periods, biased counseling with medically inaccurate scare tactics, parental consent laws for minors, insurance coverage restrictions, and targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws.
Why Should Jews Care?
Life is sacred in Judaism. Banning potentially lifesaving medical procedures and restricting abortion, contraceptives, and other family planning methods to only those who can afford or access them also contradicts the Jewish commandment to protect life.
In Mishnah Ohalot 7:6, a woman is forbidden from sacrificing her own life for the fetus, and if her life is threatened, she is allowed no other option but abortion. In addition, if the individual's mental health is at risk, then their life should take priority, giving them no other option than to terminate the pregnancy. It is due to the intrinsic Jewish belief in the sanctity of life that abortion is viewed under some circumstances as both a moral and necessary decision.
This understanding, combined with a biblical and rabbinic emphasis on human dignity (kavod ha'briyot), has led the Reform Movement to view the life of the pregnant individual as paramount, placing a stronger emphasis on protecting existing life than on potential life (Exodus 21:22-23). The physician and Rabbi Maimonides said, "if a woman is in hard labor, her life takes precedence over [the fetus'] life." Regressive state laws that prevent physicians and other providers from providing abortion and reproductive care is in direct opposition to this sacred duty.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, leaving abortion rights to the states. Your state legislatures have the power to protect abortion access through legislation, ballot initiatives, and more.
Urge your Governor and State legislators to protect and expand abortion rights.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would create a federal safeguard against countless state regulations, bans, and restrictions that prevent people from accessing the abortion care they need.
Urge your members of Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA).
The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal health insurance from covering abortion with very narrow exceptions. This disproportionately impacts low-income individuals and limits their access to abortion services.
Urge Congress to support the EACH Act, which would restore moral agency to all pregnant individuals, regardless of income.
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