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