The Facts About Abortion

June 24, 2022Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

FACT: Life begins at birth.

FACT: Until birth, the fetus is part of the mother.

FACT: The life and well-being of the mother will always take precedence over the fetus until the point at which the fetus's head fully emerges from the womb, and it becomes a living baby.

These are the facts as I believe them to be, based on my faith, tradition, and understanding of Jewish law. While I understand that some people may hold different religious views, they are not binding on me.

Until now. Now, those who hold different beliefs about when 'ensoulment' takes place, and those who do not believe that a pregnant person is entitled to bodily autonomy, are in a position to dictate their beliefs to others.

When government authorities are obligated to protect the rights of individuals from the tyranny of the majority, such personal, moral, medical, and faith-based decisions are left to the individual. Now that abortion is no longer deemed to be a 'right' and is subject to state rule, the majority rule of voters and legislators will dictate which faith traditions will and will not be permitted in their state. Those who believe that life begins at conception or some other time during gestation will be in a position to out-vote those who hold different beliefs.

The Court today specifically said its ruling applies only to the question of the right to abortion. But we know better. Their declaration that the right to abortion is not protected because no such right existed in the distant past sets the stage to undermine all other rights, such as marriage equality and other rights for LGBTQIA+ individuals, that were not generally understood a hundred or two hundred years ago.

As demoralized and devastated as I feel today, I take heart in thinking about the inspiring WRJ women who came before us. They fought for--and won--the right to vote, the right to contraception, the right to pay equality (still working on that), and, yes, the right to abortion. Now, it is up to us to reclaim and reinforce those hard-won rights for women today and for future generations. They left us a proud legacy, and we can do the same for those who follow us.

Take a deep breath, everyone... working on this issue will be a marathon, not a sprint. Today begins a state-by-state slog that could take decades, and we will be working on this issue for the long haul. The WRJ women who came before us did their part, and now it's our turn.

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