The Reform Movement's advocacy around reproductive rights is grounded in careful reading of text and tradition. The rabbis teach that life is sacred, and held that the life and well-being of an existing life must be prioritized over the possibility of potential life.
For example, the Mishnah forbids an individual from sacrificing their own life for that of the fetus, and if their life is threatened, the text permits them no other option but abortion. “[If] a woman who was having trouble giving birth….her life comes before its life.” (Mishneh Ohaloth 7:6)
It is due to the fundamental belief in the sanctity of life and the Jewish value of kavod ha’briyot, respect for human dignity, that abortion is sometimes viewed as both a moral and necessary decision. This same sanctity underscores the vital need for medically accurate sexuality education and for high-quality family planning services.
Grounded in these affirmations of moral agency, the Reform Movement has passed strong policy in favor of reproductive justice:
- In a 1935 resolution, Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) expressed support for the lifting of bans on the dissemination of birth control literature. The CCAR followed with a 1947 resolution on birth control, followed by a URJ resolution in 1950.
- In 1965, WRJ passed a resolution concerning Judaism and the Family, stating, "We appeal for liberalization of the abortion laws of the various States and urge our United States constituents to work toward this end."
- The URJ continued its commitment to advocating for reproductive health care access and rights with resolutions in 1967, 1975, 1981, and 1990, stating in 1975 that "in any decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, the individual family or woman must weigh the tradition as she struggles to formulate her own religious and moral criteria to reach her own personal decision....We oppose all constitutional amendments that would abridge or circumscribe this right."
- The Central Conference of American Rabbis went on record in 1967, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1994, 1995, 2008, and 2017 affirming the "right to terminate a pregnancy" and stating that the CCAR "opposes amendments and legislation which would abridge or circumscribe this right."