Roe v. Wade is at Risk, We Must Raise Our Voices for Abortion Rights

On December 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most consequential abortion rights case in generations. This case directly challenges the right to abortion affirmed by Roe v. Wade—that everyone has autonomy over their bodies and has the right to decide whether they want to continue a pregnancy—and the fundamental right to live with autonomy, dignity, and equality.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibits abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies and fetal abnormalities. On the day the law was enacted, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only licensed abortion clinic left in the state of Mississippi, filed a lawsuit challenging the unconstitutional ban. After the ban was struck down in the lower courts in June 2020, the state of Mississippi appealed the decision and asked the Supreme Court to review the case. In May 2021, the Supreme Court announced it would hear Mississippi’s appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s decision to strike down the law.

In September, the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, and Men of Reform Judaism joined an amicus brief to the Court supporting Jackson Women’s Health Organization’s case and urging the Court to preserve the constitutional protections for abortion.

The threat is real: overturning Roe v. Wade will cause irreparable harm to Americans. Currently, five states are down to a single abortion clinic and 90 precent of counties are already without a single abortion provider. If Roe is overturned, half of the states in the country are poised to ban abortion. People will have to drive an average of 279 miles (a minimum of 4.5 hours driving) to get an abortion and 41 percent of women of reproductive age would see their nearest abortion provider close. People will be forced to travel across state lines, and many who cannot travel – due to a lack of adequate financial resources, time off from work, or child care, for example--will be forced to carry their pregnancies against their will, putting their mental and physical health at risk.

Abortion restrictions and bans disproportionately hurt those who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care, including Black, indigenous, and People of Color, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities, and lower-income individuals. If the Mississippi ban is upheld, access to abortion will be further restricted, increasing the harm to these already marginalized groups.

Reproductive freedom is a Jewish value. Jewish tradition teaches that providing health care is not just an obligation for the patient and the doctor, but for all of society. It is for this reason that the great physician and rabbi Maimonides listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city has to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De'ot IV: 23). Maimonides also stated that “if a woman is in hard labor…her life takes precedence over [the fetus’] life.” The laboring woman's existing life has priority over the potential fetus' life: the woman is here and exists, the fetus does not. This is also true for mental health: if a woman's mental health is in jeopardy and an abortion would provide vital aid, she is permitted to seek an abortion. Judaism's intrinsic belief in the sanctity of life views certain circumstances of abortion as both a moral and necessary decision (Michnah Ohalot 7:6).

Abortion is key to our right and freedom to control our bodies, health, and our futures. We must raise our voices to protect abortion rights.

  • Live in the area? Join the RAC and WRJ at 7:45 am EST on December 1st for an Interfaith Gathering before joining thousands of advocates outside of the Supreme Court for the Abortion is Essential: Rally for Our Rights. For supporters who are unable to attend in-person, there will be an opportunity to watch the rally program via live stream. Sign up to stay in the loop for the in-person rally and we will follow up with more information closer to the event. https://racrj.wufoo.com/forms/zkv10qr1rgv1bv/
  • Abortion access is already abysmal in many states and relying on the Courts is not enough. Congress must pass legislation to create federal protections for abortion. Urge your Senators to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act at RAC.org/WHPA.
  • Show your support for reproductive rights! Print this downloadable poster, take a picture with the poster, and post with the hashtag #ReformJewsForRepro and a caption briefly explaining why you support reproductive rights. Make sure to tag @theRAC and @WRJ1913 in your post!

Related Posts

Parashah Vayeishev

November 26, 2021
This week’s Torah portion, Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), begins with Joseph sharing two dreams with his brothers and ends with Joseph interpreting dreams for both the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and chief baker.

Engaging Young Women with WRJ

November 26, 2021
A tapestry of generations—that’s one of the taglines our Temple Emanu-El WRJ Sisterhood has used to reflect the importance of including women* at every age and stage in our sisterhood.

Parashah Vayishlach

November 18, 2021
In The Torah: A Women’s Commentary published proudly by WRJ and the URJ Press (now the CCAR Press), Rabbi Laura Geller shares a Rashi midrash that claims Dinah was safely locked away in a chest to potentially protect her from Esau. Rabbi Geller posits: “Hiding Dinah…locking her away is a powerful image about silencing a woman. And that silence echoes loudly through the rest of the Torah.”