How the faith-based abortion narrative omits pro-choice Jewish values

Various nonpartisan and distinguished sources like PEW research acknowledge more than 4000 established religions in the world — most of whom approve of abortions, especially when the pregnancy would endanger the life of the mother.

A recent Gallup poll reports that 80% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases; it is higher, 87% when a woman’s life is in danger and 84% in cases of rape or incest.

While only seven of the major religions categorically prohibit abortion in all circumstances, a majority of their followers would allow exceptions.

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Judaism is one of the major religions in which the vast majority agrees that decisions regarding abortion should be left to the woman making the decision. In fact, Judaism not only permits the termination of pregnancy, but requires it even when the pregnant person’s life is in danger. “Danger” can be defined in many ways, including physical and mental health. A pregnant person’s mental state can be as critical as their physical health.

The Jews, as well as many other religions, do not believe that life begins at conception.

Jewish texts emphasize that the fetus does not have the status of a person, describing it as “mere fluid” for the first 40 days after conception and a body part of the pregnant person thereafter.

Reproductive freedom is a Jewish value.

Unfortunately, Kentucky lawmakers vote and sign legal restrictions on abortions as well as all reproductive health.

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The Kentucky House has passed House Bill 3. With that now in the Kentucky Senate, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that adds extreme regulations and restrictions on pregnant women, doctors, pharmacies and other services. It restricts access to abortion for people under 18 and students. It also prohibits receiving abortion drugs in the mail or by shipping and places more restrictions on anyone using drugs to end a pregnancy — a practice that accounts for half of all abortions in Kentucky.

The United States of America was founded on, and one of our greatest strengths is, our freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers’ belief in this was so great that they made it the First Amendment to our Bills of Rights. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Much of the rationale for banning abortion has been rooted in a Christian interpretation that life begins at conception. However, as stated earlier, this is not the case in Judaism.

The First Amendment also states that “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. All these anti-choice prohibitions and restrictions not only affect the rights of a Jewish woman, but also deny her religious beliefs while forcing her to conform to other religious practices. Moreover, these anti-choice prohibitions and restrictions could force a Jewish physician to renounce his religious and medical beliefs while forcing him to conform to other religious doctrines.

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The imposition of one religious belief to the detriment of all others should concern all people who believe in religious pluralism and religious freedom. For too long, the religious narrative around abortion has neglected to include people of faith who believe differently.

The National Council of Jewish Women, with its 180,000 members and 60 chapters across the country, began 73Before, a Jewish movement for abortion justice. As longtime proponents of challenging the status quo, the NCJW refuses to sit idly by while anti-abortionists abuse faith to justify restricting abortion rights and access.

NCJW, Louisville Chapter urges everyone to contact all elected officials, United States Senators and Representatives, Kentucky Senators and Representatives, Kentucky Attorney General, to stop imposing particular religious beliefs on people in the Commonwealth.

Beth Salamon is state policy attorney for the Louisville Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and chair of the Council on Jewish Community Relations.

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