Alabama Abortion Law – Pro-Choicers, What Do You Seek?

The Alabama law permits abortion in only the following case:

“b) An abortion shall be permitted if an attending physician licensed in Alabama determines that an abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother. Except in the case of a medical emergency as defined herein, the physician’s determination shall be confirmed in writing by a second physician licensed in Alabama. The confirmation shall occur within 180 days after the abortion is completed and shall be prima facie evidence for a permitted abortion.

Section 5. No woman upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted to be performed shall be criminally or civilly liable. Furthermore, no physician confirming the serious health risk to the child’s mother shall be criminally or civilly liable for those actions.”

Note – the law states abortions can be done in the case of “a serious health risk” determined by a licensed physician in the State and that neither the mother nor physician may be criminally or civilly charged for performing the abortion. The physician is left to determine what exactly is “a serious health risk” to his patient. Given our concern for mental health issues, it is not so far a stretch for a licensed physician in consultation with a psychiatrist, who is also a licensed physician, to determine that the continuation of the pregnancy presents a serious psychological health risk to his patient and allow for an abortion. Indeed such determinations have been made in Jewish law by competent Orthodox Poskim (decisors of Jewish law – Halacha) in the past.

There is no doubt in my mind that this law will be challenged in the courts. And here is the real issue. What moral yard stick, as this is obviously a moral issue, will be employed in the courts?

Yet the pro-choicers have created what seems to me but a tempest in a tea pot. There is no doubting the fact that our society has moved way beyond Roe vs. Wade.  There are large segments of our citizenry who have grave issues with abortion. America must revisit this fundamental issue in human existence with thoughfulness and serious dialogue.

As the Alabama law states:

“(e) Abortion advocates speak to women’s rights, but they ignore the unborn child, while medical science has increasingly recognized the humanity of the unborn child.

(f) Recent medical advances prove a baby’s heart starts to beat at around six weeks. At about eight weeks, the heartbeat can be heard through an ultrasound examination. A fetal Doppler can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as 10 weeks.

(g) Ultrasound imaging shows the developing child in utero.

(h) As early as six weeks after fertilization, fetal photography shows the clear development of a human being. The Alabama Department of Public Health publication “Did You Know . . .” demonstrates through actual pictures at two-week intervals throughout the entire pregnancy the clear images of a developing human being.

(I) It is estimated that 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II; 3,000,000 people were executed by Joseph Stalin’s regime in Soviet gulags; 2,500,000 people were murdered during the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” in 1958; 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 1970s; and approximately 1,000,000 people were murdered during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. All of these are widely acknowledged to have been crimes against humanity. By comparison, more than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined.

(j) The cases of Roe v. Wade and its progeny have engendered much civil litigation and legislative attempts to reign in so called abortion rights. Roe v. Wade attempted to define when abortion of an unborn child would be legal. Judges and legal scholars have disagreed and dissented with its finding.”

Let us consider the reaction of some pro-choicers to this State’s legislation.

There has been a call for a protest by women by refusing sexual relations with men until this STATE law, not Federal law, is revoked. This assumes, of course that it is understood that women CAN generally effectively refuse even if desired by their husband or significant other, cohabitation. Really? If the pro-choicers believe this, that women have total sway over cohabitation, then there is no need for legislation regarding “women’s rights” in this circumstance except for the cases of rape or incest which are already part of our laws but will need some tweaking to allow for abortion.

But what of the greater picture?  Science has determined that one of the functioning laws of nature is “survival of the fittest.”  Indeed, Charles Darwin himself expounded this law of nature to explain his concept of evolution. And while I do not wish in this article to discuss some of the questions that have arisen regarding Darwin’s view, suffice it to say that this law of nature is demonstrably evident on our planet.

Yet there is one creature that inhabits our earthly orb, which attempts, I repeat attempts, to counter this natural law in all its endeavors, yet quite often is unsuccessful in this noble act- humankind.  Humankind sees as virtuous the caring for the weak, the underprivileged, the ill, I could go on and on yet remarkably scores poorly in this universally accepted moral responsibility, as it is, as all of creation, as well motivated by self-aggrandizement, or more specifically, survival of the fittest.  If I am able to subdue another, I can take his possessions. If another presents a deterrent to my goal, if I have the strength, I can dispose of him. Isn’t that the result of survival of the fittest unbridled by the, and here you will forgive me, the Divine intervention in human endeavors at Sinai instructing humankind to be generous with those less able than yourself?

As this law amply states, the pro-choicers see no issue in snuffing out the life of the fetus for any reason that seems important to the host mother. She may do what she wishes to the yet unborn human being developing within her with no justification whatsoever except survival of the fittest, why – because she can. With the call for “sexual abstinence” the pro-choicers admit they believe that, with rare exception, the woman has absolute control over when she will permit cohabitation.

The marvel of nature, and specifically the marvel which we should feel regarding human life itself, is waning. Indeed we should see human life as sacred, as not only a physical reality but possessing meta-physical traits as well.  For it is G-d’s intervention that brings true fruition to the act of procreation, understood by the vast majority of Americans who do believe in a G-d active in humanity’s day to day existence. This view bolsters our efforts at compassion and care for the less able and less fortunate, as well as those through no action on their own are to various degrees dependent upon others – the fetus.

Our society and humanity as a whole, must accentuate its bold confrontation with this ever present internal battle for the individual, a conflict we all must endure.

Does a baseball player deserve an annual salary in the millions who merely entertains us, rather than a physician who daily saves the lives of his fellow human beings?  Our moral judgments effect every aspect of human life. This is the real foundational element in considering the Alabama law on abortion.

One last thought – if abortion is a women’s issue exclusively, then what of husbandry?  In this view man provides a momentary impetus for pregnancy and is out of the picture adding to the all too common desertion of husbands and fathers leaving the mother to fare for herself. Man has no right to express his feelings regarding abortion, the very life of his future progeny, then why should he feel any responsibility for caring for his future child or its mother for that matter?

I am reminded of that majestic and fascinating creature the elephant who lives according to this principal. At the time when they are sexually active, the male’s sole purpose is to join the herd, impregnate the female. He then leaves the herd once again to live a solitary life leaving the females, constituting the herd, the community, led by a senior female to care for and raise the young. Is that what the pro-choicers see as a positive goal?  Their actions surely are supporting such an outcome.

About the Author
Retired and residing in Jackson, New Jersey, Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz was the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. He served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
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