Last Friday the United States Supreme Court overturned itself in the 50 year old Roe v Wade case, now allowing states to ban any and all abortions should they choose to do so. The ruling, of course, has met with varied responses from Jewish organizations in America.
For example, Ultra-orthodox groups were pleased with the ruling. One such group, Agudath Israel of America, expressed satisfaction stating that it, “welcomes Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade. We pray that today’s ruling will inspire all Americans to appreciate the moral magnitude of the abortion issue, and to embrace a culture that celebrates life.”
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The organization explained that it holds that Jewish law prohibits abortion on demand and only allows it in extreme circumstances and even then it must be approved by a rabbi.
Acknowledging the American rights to freedom of religion it added, “We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on the broader American society. We are of the view, however, that society, through its laws, should promote a social ethic that affirms the supreme value of life. Allowing abortion on demand, in contrast, promotes a social ethic that devalues life.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is more of an umbrella group that works for different causes, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. But it took a stand on this issue, expressing profound disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
“AJC has long opposed government interference in a woman’s right to autonomy over her body and access to medical procedures that affect her own life and her ability – and decision – to bear children. Jewish tradition prioritizes the safety of women carrying a child,” said the organization in a statement.
AJC went on to say that overturning abortion access, in its opinion, denies individuals health care options consistent with their religious beliefs. And this, it said, includes many in the Jewish community, thereby presenting issues of religious freedom and privacy.
“Just as the religious freedom of those whose faith renounces abortion must be protected, we insist on the protection of the religious freedom of those whose faiths would permit the choice of abortion.” declared AJC.
“The Court has sent an ominous signal that we cannot take these freedoms for granted,” it added.
The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) is the organization of Reform women rabbis. The Reform are known for having liberal political views. In a statement, the group quoted the Bible to express how it feels about the Supreme Court’s decision: Numbers 11:10: “God became exceedingly angry; and Moses despaired.”
The Reform association declared abortion to be about is health care, saying that it stands with “generations of Jewish scholars who state clearly and unequivocally that abortion access is a Jewish value.”
“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,” declared WRN. “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. “
And so WRN maintains that 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.” The group added that it sees this as also 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.”