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Whatever Your Politics, You Shouldn’t Misrepresent Jewish Law’s Position on Abortion

To the Editor:

Commenting on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Reform Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner is quoted in a June 27 JTA story reposted by the Forward as contending that “Jewish tradition teaches the importance of a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions” and that Maimonides wrote that “Women are commanded to care for the health and well-being of their bodies above all else.”

Those statements are demonstrably false.

While a right to elective abortion for any reason may be the law of the land here in the United States, Jewish religious law, in no uncertain terms, does not permit a woman — or man — to decide for personal reasons to end a pregnancy.

There are cases in which halacha permits, and even prescribes, ending a pregnancy, but those cases are dependent entirely on halachic judgments, not on “a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions.” And Maimonides (Rotzei’ach, 1:9 and Melachim, 9:4) codifies that fact clearly.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America

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