Sorry, Liberal Jewish Leaders – Judaism Is Not Pro-Abortion

The new anti-abortion law in Texas has now become the target not only of the Justice Department, but of non-Orthodox and pseudo-Orthodox Jewish clergy and lay leadership as well. The executive director of JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) issued a harsh condemnation of mainstream Orthodox rabbis and organizations for condemning the 2019 New York State Reproductive Health Act (which expanded abortion rights and decriminalized all acts of abortion) while not condemning the new Texas law. And over 1000 “Rabbis for Repro” signed a pledge that reads in part:

I pledge to use my voice as a rabbi, cantor or Jewish educator to teach, write, and speak out about reproductive rights and Judaism in the United States and in the Jewish community…

We must not remain idle while barriers to health care place any individual’s health, well-being, autonomy or economic security at risk. We must speak out, particularly for those facing racism, classism, and ableism when exercising their human rights.  Safety, justice, freedoms, and lives are at stake.

I will help lead the fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice by educating my community, and pledge to speak and/or teach about reproductive rights in my capacity as Jewish clergy this year.

And Reform Rabbi Rachael Pass authored an article published on JTA and run by Times of Israel about her “accidental conception” on Rosh Hashana and her subsequent abortion, which she referred to as a “sacred choice.” (For several reasons, the link to this article is intentionally omitted here.)

Many of these clergy members and lay leaders aver that since abortion is allowed and even required by Halacha under certain circumstances, it is wrong and dangerous to support abortion bans or to even express opposition to abortion. Other clergy members cited in the above articles opine that abortion cannot be restricted, since it interferes with a woman’s right to all decisions involving her body, which is somehow alleged to be a Torah value, without providing explanation. (It is quite telling that those clergy members who have rationalized their opposition to abortion bans based on the need to have abortion available for situations in which Halacha permits it signed onto the Rabbis for Repro pledge, which endorses abortion for reasons of personal autonomy, without any halachic justification.)

The clear truth is that Halacha prohibits abortion. Although the prohibition to abort a baby may be overridden in specific exceptional and dire circumstances, whose parameters are discussed by major halachic authorities, abortion remains a strict Torah prohibition. (And yes, abortion is indisputably banned by the Seven Noahide Commandments, under the category of murder; v. TalmudSanhedrin 57B and Maimonides Hil. Melachim 9:4.) Abortion is similar to most other prohibitions in the Torah, which can be suspended when unusual and extreme situations arise; in these cases, Halacha has declared that the exigency of the situation supersedes the prohibition.

For example, the Torah forbids theft. However, if one is quite literally starving and might die unless he eats, the prohibition against theft is overridden (although one who steals in order to save a life is required to pay back afterwards). Likewise, Halacha forbids eating non-kosher food. But if the only food available is not kosher, and one might die if he does not eat, the Torah permits eating non-kosher food under this specific and extreme circumstance. (This tragic scenario occurred with Jews in concentration camps during World War II, who would have surely died if they did not eat whatever they could get their hands on.) Similarly, there are certain foods that are prohibited due to rabbinic prohibitions, or due to binding custom that has been codified in Halacha (such as not eating legumes during Pesach); in particular cases, when one is ill or of seriously-compromised health, and there is no kosher alternative, such foods might be permissible if absolutely necessary. (Every individual case needs to be ruled upon by a posek – a halachic authority.)

Imagine that a group of rabbis would come forth and endorse the right to steal or to consume non-kosher food; it would be laughable and pathetic, to say the least. While true that in very acute and exceptional cases, Jewish law relaxes these and most other prohibitions, in the interest of saving a life, no real rabbi would ever publicize that larceny or eating ham are permitted, or would criticize local regulations that ban theft.

The same applies to abortion. To declare that abortion should not be prohibited, or that the Torah affirms the right to abortion, is extremely distortive and is tantamount to proclaiming that Halacha endorses the right to steal. Although the prohibition of abortion is suspended in the face of dire and exceptional circumstances (and each case needs to be presented to a qualified halachic authority), abortion remains a serious prohibition that no responsible rabbi or lay leader can dare call a right.

Moving over to the new Texas law: While the law restricts abortions which some (apparently a minority of) halachic authorities might permit, in most ways it does conform with Judaism’s view, and in truth, were one of the acute scenarios to arise in which some poskim permit abortion, Texas would in all likelihood allow an abortion as well (and if it would not do so, one is able to travel to 49 other states that will accommodate).

The efforts of the wayward clergy and lay leaders to defend Roe v. Wade in the name of Judaism is baffling, as Roe v. Wade flies in the face of Judaism’s laws and values, whereas the Texas law conforms with them for the most part. If these self-declared Jewish leaders would be honest in their purported concern for compliance with the Torah, they would reject Roe v. Wade and would instead hail the Texas law as being closer to fulfilling the Jewish mandate.

In these Days of Repentance, truth is a commodity that we must pursue. And so is fidelity to the Torah. Let’s therefore honestly agree that the declarations of pro-abortion Jewish leaders in no way represent the authentic Jewish approach.

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38 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    It’s always good to point out that Roe v. Wade also flies in the face of the Constitution, something even pro-abortion legal scholars admit.

    But liberal Jews treat the Constitution in much the same way as they treat the Torah.

  2. Steven Brizel says:

    If you read the unlinked article you will see that RJ worships the AZ of woke social justice and it’s many elements that have a strong anti Semitic ideological core and that it is reasonable conclusion that the author and protagonist and would be mother was not and is not married Kdas Moshe VYisrael Al Yidei Chupah VKiddushin and that she was probably having a reaction to a positive pregnancy test after a one night stand or what is called a hook up in secular culture

    • Nachum says:

      On Rosh Hashana, no less.

      Similar ceremonies have been developed for women who’ve suffered a miscarriage. I have nothing but approval for those. To apply them to a voluntary abortion is obscene on many levels.

  3. dr. bill says:

    our tradition recognizes less than 40 days as its own halakhic category; it would appear that the Texas law outlaws cases where the pesak of major posekim is more willing to allow abortion. This is hardly the place for a learned discussion, but for the record, I witnessed the Rav ztl dealing with this issue and suggest that all read the article by RAL ztl for a more nuanced view.

    from my POV, the halakha as it applies to Jews, is stricter than what applies to the rest of the world. It is also important to remember the joint reaction of the Rav and the Gerrer rebbe ztl to events in Israel about 4 decades ago.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Which events please? Please provide a link to the article by RAL ZL

      • dr. bill says:

        the events contributed to the split into degel and agudah for reasons where abortion played a significant role. A definitive history of the nexus of events has not had a definitive history, but the Rav’s position was clearly and privately articulated

        RAL in Tradition in the early 90’s

      • Bob Miller says:

        Dr. Bill, If you know the citations, please cite them.

      • dr. bill says:

        Bob, I would be breaking confidence to reveal more. There were multiple important participants. I named two. a real historical study would have to examine a wider set of individuals and issues.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Perhaps medical science and especially what is visible on a sonogram within six weeks has advanced since 1973 when Roe was decided That factor may warrant revisiting the three trimester statute as formulated by SCOTUS in Roe not when a pregnancy test reveals a pregnancy Contrary to what the liberal media the Texas statute does not bar all abortions

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Sonography has progressed to the stage where fetal heat beats are perceptible as early as even six or eight weeks The next time that a daughter is Bshaah Tovah watch how life develops on sonograms via text messages It is amazing to watch fetal development Did sonograms have such a capacity in 1973? I suspect the Texas statute will be held to be unconstitutional but the appeal involving the Mississippi statute bears watching

    • Steve Brizel says:

      See the transcript of a shiur on Aseres HaDibros by RYBS that was transmitted word for word in Noroas HaRav where RYBS clearly described abortion as murder If you are claiming that RYBS paskened otherwise in a case implicating the physical or mental health of the mother or in allowing testing for Tay Sachs which I recall RYBS permitting in the early 1970s that would be important for you to disclose to the readership here

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Regardless of how Halacha looks at a fetus within 40 days the facts are that sonography and sonograms today depict a lot of fetal development including a heartbeat even at six or eight weeks It is fascinating to see whether the three trimester rule of Roe v Wade which was viewed of being dubious constitutional authority by great authorities in constitutional law such as Alexander Bickel and John Hart Ely will be sustained or modified in the light of scientific development

      • dr. bill says:

        Knowledge has advanced in any number of areas including the extent of psychological impact and early testing. Posekim treat this information in a variety of ways.

        A doctor close to the RSZA ztl brought a young woman who was a candidate for a possible abortion. after talking with her for a considerable period, RSZA did not tell her she can get an abortion. When asked why by the doctor, he told him that he should take her to a much younger posek, who can relate more closely to her situation.

      • mycroft says:

        It has been decades that the logic of Roe v Wade has been known to collapse because of medical advances.

        FWIW another case where look at the judges background rather than ideology. At one time Blackmun was General Counsel for Mayo Clinic. Thus his 2nd trimester ruling second trimester-, governments could require reasonable health regulations- does not make constitutional sense. One can argue about logic of his first trimester giving woman total control of decision, or third trimester stating prohibitions should be allowed but his second trimester permitting restrictions on health is not a logical one either way. It fits in well with what a General Counsel for a large hospital would argue

    • E.s. says:

      If you have any links to read more about the events you are referring to (splitting of degal / agudah) and the connection to abortion I would much appreciate it

      • dr. bill says:

        they may be published after 50 years go by. the details are not public knowledge, but there is a long history disagreement. This one was of significant halakhic import.

  4. Steven Brizel says:

    SCOTUS already has scheduled arguments involving a Mississippi statute that also regulates abortion I think it is correct to state that while Halacha prohibits abortion except in cases of extreme physical and mental threats to the welfare of the would be mother Halacha in no way supports the woke ideological agenda of abortion in demand at all times that is called “reproductive rights” There is a huge difference in the cases what Poskim consider in the realm of possible permissibility and the the decision to terminate a pregnancy after a willingly engaged in hook up with no coercion stated by the author that yielded a positive pregnancy test The former is considered a necessity of saving the life of the mother.The latter may clearly violate Lo Sirtzach

  5. D K says:

    A short Vort to add to the article:
    Before giving us the Torah, Hashem asked the other nations if they would like it, but when Edom heard that there was “Lo Sirtzach”, they refused to accept. One can ask, what did they want, that it be permitted to kill? What kind of society allows killing?
    But when we hear of the widespread and even encouraged act of abortion, euthanasia, birth control, and other forms of actions which either are or border killing, it all makes sense. Edom doesn’t permit murder, they protect “Women’s Rights” and “Mercy Killing”. They didn’t want the Torah to define what murder is and when it can and can’t be done. And that’s why when they heard “Lo Sirtzach”, they immediately turned down the offer.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Our American Jewish organizational structure of yore has been hollowed out by socialist managers in key places, and their donors. If truth in advertising was enforced, most such groups would have to change their names. How professed Jews can be consistently pro-death needs thorough study.

  7. mb says:

    Free choice is Rambam’s 14th Principle of Faith.

  8. Toby Bulman Katz says:

    These liberal women want control over their own bodies, do they? “And Reform Rabbi Rachael Pass authored an article…about her ‘accidental conception’ on Rosh Hashana and her subsequent abortion….”

    Where exactly was her body on that fateful Rosh Hashana and what was she doing with it? Lost control, hey? So in the end she had no control of herself, but she did have control over her poor, defenseless baby — and chose to sacrifice it to the Molech.

    A cold-hearted murderess of her own flesh and blood, and calls herself a rabbi.

    • Dovid Y. Kornreich says:

      My thoughts exactly, Toby.
      I elaborated on this and Reform’s hypocritical and immoral stance on abortion on another Times of Israel blog:
      https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/trying-to-be-jewishly-unjewish/

      • Steven Brizel says:

        RJ from its origins has always advocated classical liberalism ( which is now advocacy for all woke causes) cherry picks and conflates authentic sources as camouflage for its conclusions.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Every recent arbitrary Federal edict tries to make citizens (including their bodies) lose their Constitutionally protected right to choose. The hypocritical pro-death crowd cheers this trend on.

    • Chana Siegel says:

      I was also appalled at the Reform rabbi who chose to discuss her “holy choice” abortion in a public forum. I know soldiers who have had to kill in battle; they were not happy to have been forced into a situation in which they killed an enemy, certainly they did not brag about it. Still, I would not call Ms. Pass a “cold-hearted murdereress” Pass is obviously heavily invested in an ideology that not only condones but praises her actions; it’s very hard for anyone to break free of his/her preconceptions. May we all be able to see our own erroneous preconceptions and distortions and to release the sheretz may not be aware we are clutching in our fist.

  9. Raymond says:

    I find it ironic that the Intolerant Leftists talk as if they somehow have a monopoly on compassion, while at the same time insisting on pushing an agenda that calls for the murder of tens of millions of helpless, unborn babies. Honestly, I see very little moral difference between the wholesale slaughter of all those babies and the Holocaust committed against our Jewish people. How anybody can advocate such a cruel, utterly barbaric practice as abortion, is beyond my heart to understand. What it does tell me is that Mark Twain was right to characterize our species as the “damn human race.”

    • Good parallel. The only way the Nazis were able to get the German people to help them commit genocide was by dehumanizing Jews. If they aren’t human, it’s no problem to exterminate them.
      The Left sees unborn children the exact same way. They aren’t yet human so they can be treated like a cancerous growth in your body.
      That is of course, unless you wanted to conceive and have a child. Then suddenly you put the first ultrasound picture of the embryo on the fridge and start calling it “the baby”

      • mycroft says:

        . The only way the Nazis were able to get the German people to help them commit genocide was by dehumanizing Jews. If they aren’t human, it’s no problem to exterminate them.

        Part of the reason, but more likely when one has a totalitarian state that is willing to murder people who oppose their wishes will have a major impact on peoples willing to dissent.
        It might be of interest it appears that quite often when Germany exterminated Germans they did not do it in Germany. A couple of years ago I visited Munich including Dachau. My father never returned to Germany after leaving soon after Kristallnacht. I never knew much about his fathers side-when visited synagogue they had a wall of names-I naively asked were these people who gave to reconstruction of synagogue-they are deceased members of kehilla-one shade for natural deaths , one for Holocaust victims. Saw name of grandfather who was buried in Munich, but then say a number of those with my same last name. My wife was kind enough on her cell to copy names. Later checked all my grandfathers siblings-many of their children died in the Holocaust but NOT in Dachau which is only a few miles from the Jewish section of Munich but in the Polish extermination camps.
        In Dachau the tour is not really inconsistent with what we would believe. Germany tends to take responsibility compared to other countries. It appears from our visit there are non stop HS student trips there of German students. Dachau is essentially between Downtown and the airport-accessible very easily by mass transit.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Mycroft,
        In late 2002, I was on a business trip to Germany and Switzerland. We got to our hotel in Germany a bit early, so we drove to Worms and found a complex of buildings associated with Rashi. The neighborhood had been wrecked by the Nazis and restored in the 1960’s to look like the real think. The missing element was Jews! Anyway, I got to daven Mincha in the restored shul. Near the shul was a small museum with exhibits about Jewish life in Worms and its destruction in the Shoah. Groups of schoolchildren came through for live instruction and a video.
        See: https://www.worms.de/en/tourismus/sehenswertes/juedisches_worms/raschi-und-das-juedische-worms/
        https://jguideeurope.org/en/region/germany/the-rhineland-and-bavaria/worms/

        Well and good, but governmental and corporate Germany still plays footsie with Iran, which shows how deep its regret goes.

  10. Mark says:

    A meme I received today says it all, “Kapparos is a ritual where people who spend their entire year advocating for the death of unborn babies take a break to advocate for the lives of chickens.”

  11. ralph suiskind says:

    needless to say…. our leadership is at fault for not providing a direct and effective message defending of true Torah values…

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