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Late-term abortions, Judaism, and Trump

Trump's late-term abortion comments were so wrong-headed that she cannot remain silent

Back in March I shared the following: “Regret supporting Trump? Say so.” The blog went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter and frankly, I was happy when it slipped off the page. In retrospect, I felt that it was too snarky, too angry, and a misuse of bandwidth. I asked myself more than once while thumping my chest to atone for my sins during Yom Kippur, what I was thinking setting myself up as judge and jury.

But then my husband’s Twitter feed began to fill up with the classically anti-Semitic memes from alt-right Trump supporters that prompted him to write the following: “I Hadn’t Been Called a Kike Since Fourth Grade. Donald Trump Changed All That”.

I wondered whether remorseful Trump supporters were taking advantage of the annual Tashlich ceremony to cast their bread upon the waters in atonement for the inadvertent sin of supporting the anti-Semitic alt-right.

But I remained silent.

I thought twice before re-sharing my husband’s collection of graphically anti-Semitic tweets. As my readers know, I am a daughter of Holocaust survivors and my 86-year-old alive, kicking, sharing, and posting mother would see them on her own FB page.

What finally made me break my silence regarding my own blog was Alyson Draper’s heart-wrenching FB post:


“I had to have a late term abortion. It was the worst moment in my life. What made it even worse was the State of Utah had made it illegal. I had one dead twin. The other had severe Spina Bifida, and would only have lived with life support, in great pain, for a few days.

“I lay on the hospital floor, bawling hysterically, for 12 hours, waiting for an ethics committee of the health care corporation to decide my case justified what had to be done. My health was in danger due to the dead fetus. My husband and I consulted our LDS Bishop, who assured me I needed to do what I had to do, that it was even within LDS guidelines to do so. He reminded me I had six kids at home who needed their mother to live.

“The abortion was terrible. It was done very gently, by Caesarean section, leaving the babies in their amniotic sacs. The living baby passed very quickly.”

In Israel, it is similarly common practice to save the mother’s life when necessary, by terminating late-stage pregnancy as humanely as possible. Rabbis and physicians cite the Talmud:

Sanhedrin 57b interprets Genesis 9:6 “Who so sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” to include the killing of a fetus.

The Rabbis of the Sanhedrin Jewish Court considered the fetus to be alive with regard to this prohibition against murder, but not considered “alive” to the extent that his or her life is protected if it endangers the mother’s. Like Draper’s LDS Bishop, the Rabbis thus ruled that pikuach nefesh (permission to break Jewish law to save a life) applied and that the mother’s life takes precedence. That the child may be aborted to save the mother’s life.

I apologize to anyone I hurt with the comments in my previous blog. I apologize profusely to anyone I hurt by reposting alt-right tweets directed at my husband, and therefore my family and myself. I apologize for giving yet another platform to these hateful, despicable neo-Nazi racists and the Trumpists who support them. I apologize to innocent Trump supporters who believe that he is the better candidate and will exercise their legitimate right to vote for him.

But I can no longer remain silent regarding the hurt he caused women like Ms. Draper, who relied on the teachings of their faiths to make the most painful decision they have ever had to make. I wish them all healing and comfort. I mourn for their loss. I pray that their children’s memories will be bound up in life. And I wish my fellow Jews Shabbat Shalom and Moadim Lesimhah.

About the Author
Varda Spiegel was Nurse-Director of the Bedouin Mobile Unit of the Negev, later serving as Maternal-Child Health Director for the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District. I am the author of Hershele and the Chicken Skates, was the English Web Content Manager for the Israel Museum and have translated from Hebrew to English for Haaretz and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People. I'm a grandmother, mother, and beachbum.
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