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Jewish leaders pledge ‘fight’ on abortion following Supreme Court report

With the Supreme Court's conservative majority reportedly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, many Jewish groups readied to combat the decision

Jewish groups reacted with alarm and outrage at the news reported late Monday that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would enable states to outlaw abortion. “We will fight for abortion rights with all of our strength,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, leader of the Reform movement, said on social media Tuesday.

American Jews overwhelmingly support abortion access — 83% believe it should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center — and three-quarters said in an separate April poll that they were concerned the Supreme Court would reverse Roe v. Wade. Orthodox Jews, who make up about 10% of the community, tend to be more ambivalent, with 38% expressing concern that Roe would be overturned compared to 81% of Reform Jews.

The National Council for Jewish Women is planning an “abortion justice” rally in Washington, D.C., on May 17 and Sheila Katz, the organization’s chief executive, told supporters Monday to “rest up.”

“Tomorrow we fight for abortion access like millions of people’s lives depend on it,” Katz said on social media. “Because they do.”

Halie Soifer, chief of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said the organization planned to focus its lobbying this month on convincing Senate Democrats to codify abortion protections into federal law. “Democrats have the majority in the Senate and House, we have a president who will codify Roe into law, and now its incumbent on Democrats to use that majority,” Soifer said in an interview.

The Republican Jewish Coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although its website states that its members are “divided as the rest of America” on abortion.

The flurry of activity was launched after Politico published a leaked draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1972 decision that found the Constitution prohibited states from banning abortions before the third trimester. It appears as if four conservative justices had joined the opinion. Since Roe, a series of subsequent rulings have allowed increased restrictions on both patients and abortion providers, but outright bans passed by Republican state lawmakers have typically been struck down by the courts.

Despite the broad support among American Jews for reproductive rights, there was little reaction from major Jewish establishment organizations early Tuesday. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization that represents more than 50 groups, had not released a statement, nor had the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs or the Anti-Defamation League.

Hadassah, the Jewish women’s organization, decried the reported court decision in a statement, calling it “an attack on women’s autonomy, freedom and health.”

“When a woman’s right to choose is limited, we also limit her right to safe, informed medical decisions and procedures,” Rhoda Smolow, the group’s president, and Naomi Adler, its chief executive, said in the joint statement. “If enacted, this decision will have disproportionate impacts for the empowerment, economic equity and security of women in underserved communities.”

While support for abortion rights tracks with the political positions of Jewish voters, several rabbis and other community leaders also emphasized the matter of religious freedom. “Judaism allows and requires abortion in many circumstances,” Blimi Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish nurse, said on Twitter. “The mother’s well-being takes priority over a fetus, according to Jewish law. A fetus which harms a woman is termed a murderer.”

“An overturned Roe will result in Jewish women everywhere being unable to practice their religion,” Marcus said.

The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly weighed in Tuesday afternoon, calling for members of Congress to support reproductive rights in “each and every state.”

“Reproductive freedom is again under assault, this time from the highest court in our nation,” the organization said. “The RA supports full access for all those who need abortions to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare and opposes all efforts by governmental, private entities, or individuals to limit or dismantle such access.”

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