Statement by Torat Chayim members on the Dobbs decision

Source: Shutterstock, licensed under the Shutterstock Royalty-Free License Agreement

As Orthodox rabbis, we occupy a unique place in the ecology of faith in the United States: We subordinate ourselves to divine law (halacha) — and commit to allowing halacha and Torah values to guide our actions and thoughts. Accordingly, the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the legislating of abortion to states is extremely problematic, given the number of states which have vowed to make abortion difficult or impossible to obtain. 

Halacha has a time-honored path to making difficult moral decisions: People in complex and challenging situations consult a rabbi of their choosing, who guides them to make a decision in keeping with the halachic system. Where this decision is medical in nature, the advice of physicians is taken very seriously towards the Torah’s goal of promoting and preserving life.

The Dobbs decision is a categorical affront to Halacha and to our tradition. Politicians have no standing to make sensitive moral and medical decisions on behalf of women. 

The underlying idea that Jewish law does not recognize state politicians as having authority to make religious decisions for us is at once foundational but also somewhat abstract; in the weeks following the catastrophic Dobbs decision, we are also aware of many ways that it is causing specific harm to women. As Judaism requires us to make decisions that protect and preserve life, we condemn any law that limits access to life-saving medical care. As we hear stories of women experiencing miscarriages who are denied care because their symptoms and treatment are identical to that of self-induced abortion, we say: Judaism demands we care for people experiencing medical emergencies.

We hear of patients denied access to medication for Lupus because this medication is also an abortifacient; we hear of politicians who wish to outlaw treatment for ectopic pregnancies (which can never result in the birth of a live child); we hear of doctors who are being second-guessed on judgment calls they must make about whether a particular intervention is necessary, and we say unequivocally: This is not what halacha wants. The consequences of Dobbs will be far-reaching and multi-faceted. Women will be harmed and their lives will be put in jeopardy, both outcomes unacceptable in halacha.

The Orthodox community has thrived in America because of this country’s commitment to religious freedom. This commitment demands that the difficult and highly personal decision of whether to have an abortion be made in the context of our religious law in consultation with our religious leaders and medical providers. Judaism requires us to make decisions that promote and preserve the life and health of those who are living. In the book of Leviticus 18:5, we read:

“וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם”

“You shall guard My laws and My rules, that humans shall abide by and live by them.” We demand of our leaders to make decisions that will allow us to live by them.

We call on all Orthodox Jews to look closely at the consequences of this decision and to work in our communities to affirm and protect the rights of all people to religious liberty, life-saving medical care and human dignity. As we approach the current primary and election season, it is incumbent upon all of us to take seriously our obligation as voters in local, state and federal elections. We must ask candidates how they will protect the vulnerable and how they will legislate to protect doctors’ ability to make necessary medical decisions. 

Legal change is a slow process. As time passes, it will be tempting to allow our attention to be diverted to other pressing issues. We must commit to maintaining our focus on this issue: the lives of our fellow citizens depend on it.

Signed by the following Torat Chayim members:

Rabba Aliza Libman Baronofsky

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Rabbi Avraham Bronstein

Rabbi Michael Stein

Rabbi Dr. David S. Bauman

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller

Rabbi Alana Suskin

Rabbi Gabriel Kretzmer-Seed

Rabbi David Jaffe

Rabbi Dina Najman

Rabbi Marianne Novak

Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Rabbi Avram H. Herzog

Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Giller

  1. Shayna Abramson

Rabbi Daniel Landes

Rabbi Michael Chernick

Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg

Rabbi David Kalb

Rabbi David Kasher

Rabbi Jacob Siegel

Rabbi Barry Dollinger

Rabba Amy Newman

Rabbi Yaakov Komisar

Rabbi Daniel Geretz

Rabbi Steve Greenberg

Rabbi Tyson Herberger

Rabba Dr. Carmella Abraham

Rabbi Daniel Braune-Friedman

Rabbi Daniel Silverstein

Rabbi Jonah Winer

Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub

About the Author
Rabba Aliza Libman Baronofsky received semicha from Yeshivat Maharat in 2022. A native of Ontario, Canada, she studied Tanach at Midreshet Lindenbaum before participating in York University’s Jewish Teacher Education Program. Aliza also has an ALM in Math for Teaching from Harvard University. Aliza taught Tanach and math at the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA from 2005-2016, where she particularly enjoyed designing and implementing interdisciplinary lessons. Since 2016, Aliza has taught at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. She lives in Aspen Hill, MD with her husband and children.
Related Topics
Related Posts

We have a new, improved comments system. To comment, simply register or sign in.