Judaism and Abortion

I don’t think I’ve ever written my own opinion about abortion. I’ll be brief. But considering all that’s going on, it seems important to get it on the record. Especially with Clarence Thomas’s ravings about how he’d like to also revisit Supreme Court precedents which acknowledge the rights to contraception, same-sex relations, and same-sex marriage (while deliberately leaving out similar Supreme Court precedents about interracial marriage, probably because his wife is white – see https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/morning-joe-calls-clarence-thomas-170600668.html for more about that).

Crazy, dangerous times.

Anyway, I’m not a fan of abortion. Who is? I don’t think anybody “likes” abortion. It’s done for personal and health reasons.

While a baby is certainly a person, whether an embryo or fetus is a person is a religious/philosophical question.

Some religions believe it takes time before the soul enters the fetus – anywhere from 30 to 90 days after conception, depending on your source. Or even that it happens at first breath.

The point is that it comes down to a personal, philosophical opinion. It’s certainly not one to be dictated by state law. That’s like legislating religion.

I saw this interesting article in today’s USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/05/03/when-does-life-begin-abortion-views-christians-jews-and-others/9618128002/

Here’s a section I found particularly interesting, since my family is Jewish. I do think it’s important for everybody to understand that in addition to basic ideas of privacy and women’s rights and general freedom, there isn’t one universal religious take on this either.

“For many Jewish leaders, Christian biblical interpretations of when life begins are problematic.

In part, this is because Christians often cite Psalms as proof. Whereas in Judaism, Psalms is a book of poetry.

Jewish laws are derived from the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. According to Genesis 2:7, life begins at the first breath, when “God breathed breath into him.” As such, terminating a pregnancy is not a crime because fetuses do not have souls.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, a scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women in Evanston, Illinois, said this is further explained in a passage in Exodus 21:22-23, which reads: “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other harm ensues, the one responsible shall be fined when the woman’s husband demands compensation… But if other harm ensues, the penalty shall be life for life.”

Ruttenberg said this makes clear the life of the mother takes precedent over the fetus. And that in Judaism, abortion is not only permitted but taking all necessary measures to save a pregnant person’s life is required.

“Laws banning abortion access violate Jewish religious freedom,” she said.

Recently, Torat Chayim, a rabbinical association of about 300 Orthodox rabbis, issued statements strongly condemning anti-abortion bans in Texas and Oklahoma.

Rabbi Dayna Ruttenberg takes issue with the conservative Christians pointing to Psalms as proof that abortion should be illegal.

“Under this bill, Oklahoman Jews are not able to protect a mother’s life in accordance with the ancient laws of our faith,” the statement said.”


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