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‘Abortion access is a Jewish value’: Reaction to Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

Here’s what the Jewish community is saying about the end to a constitutionally protected right to abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision ended constitutional protections for the right to an abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years. Abortion opponents have fought for decades to outlaw the procedure. Abortion will now likely be banned in about half of the states.

Here is a sampling of reaction from the Jewish community.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs: “Prohibiting abortion access is contrary to Jewish law, traditions, and our principal value of saving a life; it enshrines specific religious imperatives in American law. Judaism compels us to stand for all life, and we prioritize the life and health of a pregnant person.”

Hadassah: “Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, reaffirms its unwavering support for full and complete access to reproductive health services and the right to make decisions based on each woman’s religious, moral and ethical values. Hadassah will continue to fight for federal and state legislation affirming and protecting reproductive rights.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY): “Today is a victory for life, for family, for the constitution, and for federalism. When my daughters, Mikayla and Arianna, were born 14.5 weeks early, I had the opportunity to witness life in the second trimester and it was absolutely beautiful. In a state that has legalized late term partial birth abortion and non-doctors performing abortion, in a state that refuses to advance informed consent and parental consent, and where not enough is being done to promote adoption and support mothers, today is yet another reminder that New York clearly needs to do a much better job to promote, respect and defend life.”

Keshet (LGBTQ rights): “This Supreme Court decision is the culmination of a decades-long campaign by an extremist, predominantly white Christian minority to impose their religious and cultural beliefs on the majority of Americans who support abortion rights. Keshet, and the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities, will fight to reverse this court decision and ensure abortion access for all.”

Rabbinical Assembly (representing Conservative rabbis): “The RA is outraged by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to end the Constitutional right to abortion and deny access to lifesaving medical procedures for millions of individuals in the U.S., in what will be regarded as one of the most extreme instances of governmental overreach in our lifetime.”

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America: “The Orthodox Union is unable to either mourn or celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. We cannot support absolute bans on abortion—at any time point in a pregnancy—that would not allow access to abortion in life-saving situations. Similarly, we cannot support legislation that does not limit abortion to situations in which medical (including mental health) professionals affirm that carrying the pregnancy to term poses real risk to the life of the mother. … The “right to choose” (as well as the “right to die”) are thus completely at odds with our religious and halachic values. Legislation and court rulings that enshrine such rights concern us deeply on a societal level. Yet, that same mandate to preserve life requires us to be concerned for the life of the mother.”

Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (Jofa): “As a matter of faith, Jofa supports every woman’s legal right to make decisions about, and have control over, her own body, without the involvement of the government or any other entity.”

Women’s Rabbinic Network: “The Torah, the Mishnah, and the Talmud — Judaism’s most sacred and authoritative texts — do not view a fetus as a soul until it is born. Rather, a fetus is considered part of the parent’s body until delivery. Indeed, the word for soul — neshama — also means breath, because Judaism teaches that life begins not at conception or with a heartbeat but with the first breath. Therefore, forcing someone to carry a pregnancy that they do not want or that endangers their life is a violation of Jewish law because it prioritizes a fetus over the living adult who is pregnant. This must be understood as a violation of the United States Constitution which guarantees our freedom to practice our religion and also our freedom from the dictates of other religions.”

Hillel International: “Our tradition teaches that our most sacred obligation is the preservation of human life, and we’re dismayed that this ruling will make it more challenging to fulfill that promise for the students, professionals, and community members we serve.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah: “Today’s ruling ignores the First Amendment right for Jews to practice their religion without government interference, and will also have life threatening implications for millions of Americans, primarily low-income people of color, by giving states the power to revoke essential health care from nearly half the population.”

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington: “Even under its strictest, most traditional interpretation, Jewish law mandates the termination of a pregnancy in certain circumstances involving the life or health of the mother. While we respect other religions’ belief that life begins at conception, Jewish law has no such dictate. Accordingly, a ruling holding that a fetus is a person effectively elevates one religious viewpoint over others and infringes upon Jewish pregnant individuals’ right to follow the tenets of their faith.”

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