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On the overturning of Roe v. Wade

06/24/2022 01:21:16 PM


Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

The Supreme Court of the United States has just removed from our treasured collection of constitutional rights one’s ability to access abortion. I object unequivocally to this ruling, which overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and I hope that you will join me by participating in some of the actions I mention below. Fifty years ago, we believed that we had clarified and determined the sacred privilege of bodily autonomy. Now, that right has been taken away from all Americans, regardless of their gender. I believe this is an alarming moment in the life of our country, and I am determined to advocate on behalf of people who wish to control their individual reproductive lives. 
Let me briefly review what Judaism says about abortion: 

  • In the viewpoint of the Torah, life is surely sacred.  
  • The Mishnah (the second-century CE commentary on the Torah) regards abortion as necessary medical care, not only permitting the termination of a pregnancy but also requiring it when the pregnant person’s life is threatened.  
  • Accordingly, any procedure that involves potentially life-saving medical treatment and/or supports a pregnant person’s bodily autonomy aligns with our commandment to protect life. 

A more complete explanation of Jewish thought and tradition is available at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. You can read more at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where you will find links to historic resolutions and current positions of the Women of Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Union for Reform Judaism. Because these are complicated topics, I would be happy to discuss any of these materials with you. 
Another implication of this decision is abhorrent and terrifying to our modern society: the breaching of our right to privacy. A concurring opinion seems to dismiss 50 years of precedent grounded on a constitutional right to privacy. The potential abrogation of this right that we have all come to count on is frightening in its implications, as it might foreshadow further erosion—or even excision—of rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, gender-affirming health care, interracial marriage, and more. 
This ruling effectively enshrines into law a religious viewpoint that is at odds with other religions’ opinions about abortion. Severely curtailing reproductive options as it does, the ruling thereby violates the Constitution’s explicit protection of the free exercise of religion. People of faith believe many different things about the beginnings of human life or the status of the fetus, so no one single religious concept should guide American practice and law, especially concerning so personal a consideration. The decision to terminate a pregnancy should not be subject to someone else’s restrictive religious or philosophical viewpoint. 
We also know that prohibitions on abortion will not curtail the number of abortions taking place; they will simply make abortions dangerous and life-threatening. Join me, therefore, in standing with patients, their physicians, and their loved ones. We know that when proper medical care is available to those making these decisions, the possibility of positive outcomes for health and life increases. 
We should not allow the issue of abortion access, reproductive rights, and individual bodily autonomy to disappear from the public arena, neither in Wisconsin nor across the nation. We can push back against these incursions on our freedom by speaking out, pursuing legislative changes, and educating voters. We can also contribute money to organizations that help patients access abortion in states where it remains legal, and support individual patients by offering transportation, childcare, and other practical assistance. 
With our active involvement, we can begin to regain our freedoms. Please contact me at the Temple office with any questions or concerns. 
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch 

August 17, 2022 20 Av 5782