(February 4, 2019 / JNS) Jewish groups sent mixed reactions to the latest string of controversial late-term abortion initiatives.
New York enacted a law last week that allows abortions to be performed by non-doctors until the point of birth, while Virginia Democratic lawmakers proposed a bill that would relax restrictions on abortion during the third trimester.
Organizations such as the Coalition for Jewish Values expressed opposition to the New York measure.
“According to this law,” said Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, chairman of the Rabbinic Circle of the CJV, “late-term abortions may be performed literally until right before birth, even by non-doctors, and not only in order to save the mother’s life but also ‘to protect a patient’s health’ and even decriminalized illegal abortions. New York State has asserted that a woman’s convenience and whim are more important than the life of another.”
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, the CJV’s East Coast regional vice president, said: “Just weeks ago, Israel was shocked when a terrorist shot a young expectant mother in her abdomen, leading to the death of her baby. An entire country mourned for what New York State would have us believe was a matter of no consequence. Under the guise of progressivism, New York is taking us back to a primitive age when infanticide was also accepted—and the fact that these ‘progressives’ want to take up euthanasia next should surprise no one.”
However, the National Council of Jewish Women supported the measures in New York and Virginia.
“It is critical that women across the country have access to affordable health care and abortion services that protect our autonomy, moral agency and religious liberty. NCJW applauds the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in New York, which reflects Jewish tradition: that a woman’s health is paramount at any and all stages in a pregnancy,” Jody Rabhan, the group’s director of government relations and advocacy, told JNS. “This legislation will allow women to make personal decisions about their bodies and futures, consistent with their own beliefs and circumstances.”
Still, it remained one of the few Jewish organizations to go vocal, as other voices in the community are refraining from public views on the development.
“Amid fears that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, this law can serve as an important model for other states,” she continued. “That said, we are deeply disappointed that the Virginia legislature voted against the REPEAL Act, which would have loosened the state’s abortion restrictions. Driven by our faith and values, NCJW will continue to advocate for the reproductive rights of all women nationwide.”
Agudath Israel, citing that “Jewish tradition teaches that a human fetus has status and dignity,” said that abortion should be legal if the mother’s life is in danger in accordance with Jewish law that makes saving a human life paramount. But it has opposed the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s legal right to an abortion, and in response to the New York law, said,“We decry this even more life-unfriendly legislation.”
The Rabbinical Alliance of America-Igud Harabbonim (RAA/Igud), which represents almost 1,000 rabbis serving throughout the United States, “vigorously opposes” the New York law.
“As with most medical issues, there may be other considerations that enter into the equation that require consultation with a medical professional and a competent rabbi,” said the organization in a statement. “However, the intentional termination of a fetus should never be done casually as there are two lives at risk—the mother’s and the unborn child’s. Abortion on demand as allowed today in many places in the U.S. is immoral and sinful.”
“Compassion and respect for life requires balancing the needs of the unborn with those of the mother. For too long, this country has lost its balance and allowed for widespread, unjustified destruction of fetuses,” added the group. “The recent New York law pushes that balance further askew. RAA/Igud prays for a day when that balance is restored and all life is cherished.”
National Council of Young Israel president Farley Weiss said “New York State’s Reproductive Health Act is a moral morass and a step in the wrong direction. The new law makes no distinction as to the viability of the fetus when allowing late-term abortions, and will inevitably lead to an upsurge of abortions in the second and third trimesters, when the fetus is viable.”
“With approximately one-quarter of all pregnancies in New York State ending with an abortion, Governor Cuomo and the legislature just opened the door for that frightening number to increase significantly,” he continued. “With its ethical shortcomings and alarming stipulations, the Reproductive Health Act is categorically not kosher.”