Texas’s brutal new anti-abortion laws and bounties on those who help facilitate them are a reminder of why Orthodox alliances with Christian groups are not always in the best interest of the Jewish community. In fact, they are often a danger to our community. Many thousands of Jewish women in Texas will be adversely affected by the wave of punitive anti-abortion laws. It is also a call to action for our community to stand by those endangered by this law.
Just as it is untrue to claim the Jewish view of abortion is entirely in line with how some progressives view it, it is also untrue to claim that Judaism’s view of abortion is in line with the Catholic or the so-called “pro-life” community.
It is no secret that even the most Hasidic families in cases of adverse health situations might turn to abortion as an option–not without the guidance of a trusted rabbinic authority. Leading rabbis with superb command of halacha will give discrete rulings on a case-by-case basis after hearing all the information and may refer couples for an abortion. Any of those women living in Texas, and soon perhaps in Florida, may no longer be able to get that abortion as she would in New York. Not only will she not be able to get that care locally, but a $10,000 bounty will be waiting for any psychopath vigilante who decides to bring her or anyone who helped her face criminal consequences. This is a violation of even the Orthodox Jews’ religious freedom and physical freedoms.
One of the greatest tragedies of our public discourse is centering the conversation around abortion as being either “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” Rarely is it either of those.
Sitting once with Evangelical pro-life doctors, I asked them what they do about the complexities of end-of-life care, one of the most discussed topics in Jewish medical ethics — they had no idea what I was referring to. The notion of taking someone off life support and ending life itself for someone in critical condition is considered by many Jewish scholars to be an act of murderer and is at the least a difficult ethical dilemma — they had no idea. The fact that someone would support taking away healthcare from a woman who may be facing a life-threatening pregnancy did not care much for the ethical problems of pulling a fully grown live human being off of life-support haunts me to this day. Once again, I realized how little the “pro-life” movement had to do with Jewish definitions of life and death.
Conversely, rarely is the decision surrounding an abortion a “choice.” Advocates of the Texas abortion ban would like to think of abortion as a choice a woke hipster makes in her ninth month, realizing she actually does not want the responsibility of raising this healthy child waiting to come out, so she is choosing to terminate that pregnancy. That rarely ever happens. Abortion is most often a result of severe adverse health conditions found in a fetus, discovering an unplanned pregnancy that cannot be carried to term, or other highly adverse circumstances. That is the vast majority. Portraying it as a choice, like one chooses between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, falsifies its reality.
In the non-American form of it, I am very pro-life. I donate to, and support causes like Yad Eliezer, which helps feed young babies and support young moms who find themselves with no financial support.
Yet, the Texas new abortion ban is not pro-life or pro-choice; it is about forcing fundamentalist Christian beliefs on the many who do not share those beliefs. Bounties that do not apply to the worst of pedophiles or violent murderers have been announced on the heads of women seeking healthcare, often under the most adverse of circumstances.
The only question that remains is where are the Orthodox voices defending our religious freedoms? Where are the Orthodox voices standing up for our sisters forced to follow fundamentalist Christian values? As a community that takes action to save lives and care for others, what are we doing to make sure that women are kept out of harm’s way and are safe from this crusade of fundamentalism?