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Roe v. Wade – An Orthodox Jewish Perspective

Well, it finally happened. By a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. Which had given constitutional protection to the right of a woman to abort her pregnancy for any reason she chose. 

The Court’s decision does not make abortion illegal. It just allows individual states to make their own laws about it. And although unlikely, it even allows for federal legislation to legalize it for the entire country. The reality however is that abortion will be made illegal in a number of states. Making it difficult for residents of that state to get one – if at all.

Despite all the cheering by many Orthodox Jewish organizations – this is not a good outcome for Orthodox Jews. As I have said many times before – this medical procedure should remain legal so that when Halachicly required, it can be easily accessed without fear of violating the law.

That many of the states outlawing abortion include an exception when the life of the mother is at risk – is of little solace. The fact remains that this exception is subject to wide interpretation. Halacha might differ from a state’s interpretation.  State legislatures will not look to our Poskim when crafting those laws.

In cases where there is conflict between state law and Halacha it would require a woman to travel to another state to get an abortion – thus delaying a life saving procedure. Which by itself could endanger her life. Not to mention the inconvenience, being away from family and community, possibly not being covered by insurance, and travel expenses. I have even heard talk that some states might even make it illegal for any woman to seek an abortion in another state – considering it a prosecutable crime!

It is for this reason that I am not cheering this decision along with the Orthodox Jewish organizations that are. Their cheering is in my view short sighted.

That being said, I find the arguments in favor of abortion by the pro-choice crowd to border on the immoral. Their primary argument is that a woman should have the right to choose what to do with her own body for any reason she chooses. I would normally agree with that in principle. All human beings should have that right. Provided there is not another life involved. Which in the case of abortions there clearly is. A woman’s right to choose stops at that door. I have yet to hear any pro-choicer talk about anything other than reproductive rights or abortion rights. Never a word about the fetus. As though it didn’t even exist. Baby? What baby?!

Listening to interviews of those protesting the decision really brought this point home to me. One married woman said, we just aren’t ready to have a family yet. I can’t have this baby. Another woman said that having a baby would end her career. Another woman said she could not afford to have any more children and that she could barely afford to feed the children she does have. The passion is all about MY rights. My convenience. Me, me, me! 

Sure. It is inconvenient when not expected. But should that mean killing the fetus is the solution? Is that really the morally correct decision?

I have to believe that one of the driving forces of the pro choice movement is the cultural revolution about casual sex that changed how sexual relations is now viewed. The idea of sex being primarily for the purpose of having children is an archaic one.

The biological reality is that reproduction is exactly what having sex is for. But today that is at most an inconvenient reality when it happens. As though it were just an accidental bi-product of love making. By today’s standards it is rare for a young couple to not have a sexual relationship well before marriage. Having a sexual relationship is a culturally accepted means of expressing affection, regardless of marital status. Even one night stands are considered perfectly fine between consenting adults. Hardly anyone considers that immoral today.

The advent of a variety of easily obtainable contraceptive measures has made having children irrelevant to having sex.

It’s all about making love. Pregnancy is no longer an issue. Until it happens. Well that’s no problem. The pregnancy can be terminated and they can go on with their relationship without that inconvenience.

I’ll bet the people protesting the loudest are people that see sexual relationships this way. Sex for purposes of procreation is an archaic idea that has long ago been abandoned as a primary motive for engaging in it. When a culture sees sex as nothing more than a means of making love, it is no wonder that overturning Roe V Wade is so vehemently protested.

I have to wonder how many abortions are due to this attitude? How many abortions are by women involved in a casual sexual relationship? More than a few I bet.

Sanctity of life?! What’s that?! ‘My rights’! That is all that matters. And the liberal/left cheers them on as though they have the moral high ground.

Meanwhile the left leaning media has expressed the same ‘moral outrage’ over this decision while pretending to be even handed to the pro lifers. They can barely disguise their contempt for the conservative justices that made it happen. Hardly ever failing to mention Trump being responsible for that.

It is the pro life people who have the right idea about the sanctity of life. Usually based upon the moral and religious values of the bible. I side with their views on the sanctity of life despite my views that abortion should remain legal across the land.

What about the fact that a huge majority of people supported Roe v. Wade and think the Supreme Court made the wrong decision?

I think the lopsided support for Roe v. Wade is in part due to the same feelings I have about it. If I had been asked about it, I would have said the same thing. I believe the country is more evenly divided on the issue of completely unfettered abortion rights.

But even if I am wrong, popular opinion has nothing to do with what the constitution requires. Which is a matter of interpretation. The Supreme Court’s decision was based on that and not on how popular their decision would be.

One more thing. There is a lot of discussion about what’s next. What other recent decisions will the Court strike down? Is gay marriage at risk? What about contraceptives’? Will the Court remove the recently granted constitutional protection allowing states to make their own decision on these issues?

That has been answered by the Court itself. There is a qualitative difference between abortion rights and those other issues. The former involves extinguishing a potential life – a potential human being. Gay marriage and contraception does not. Constitutional protection granted to these two things will not be taken away. Only one justice, Clarence Thomas, believes it should. But it ain’t gonna happen under this court. All the the other conservative justices would vote to overturn those decisions if they were challenged.

At the end of the day, I hope that our people will not suffer any adverse consequences of the Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade. But I would have been happier of the Court just left it alone.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.
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