A TEXAS law imposing a near-total ban on abortion that the US Supreme Court allowed to stand will cause “unconstitutional chaos” by infringing on a right that women have exercised for almost a half-century, President Joe Biden warned on Thursday.
The law, and the Supreme Court’s decision not to block it, has sparked outrage throughout the country, and prompted conservative rabbi Danny Horwitz, above, to declare in a Religion News Service op-ed:
This law is a restriction on the practice of my religion. And it would likewise impose a religious standard upon anyone from any religion who believes abortion is not always the evil our state officials believe it to be.
Saying he’d once advised a woman to get an abortion because she had pre-existing health issues and struggled to take care of the children she already had, Horwitz pointed out that:
Judaism teaches that potential life is sacred. Nevertheless, our religion also teaches that potential life is not the same as actual life, that a fetus is not a human being. This is directly derived from Scripture.
Therefore, even during labor, the pregnant woman’s life has precedence over the life of the fetus. And if we have reason to believe a pregnancy will be a serious threat to the woman’s well-being, whether that be mentally, physically or otherwise, then she will be counseled to abort the fetus, and to do so in a way that maximally protects her own health.
We would never celebrate the termination of potential life, but neither would we regard it as automatically forbidden. As my doctoral adviser, Rabbi Byron Sherwin, put it, ‘Judaism is neither pro-life or pro-choice. It depends on the life and it depends on the choice.
Thus, when this woman came to me for direction, I told her not that she could have an abortion, but that she must have an abortion, that the God of my understanding would want her to do it.
My action would likely be considered a violation of SB 8, the new Texas law making it illegal to assist someone in pursuing an abortion.
This law cannot stand forever.
I am 70 years old, now working as a rabbi part time. It’s not likely many pregnant women will come to me for counseling about whether they should have an abortion. (And, of course, it is their right as Americans, should be their right, to make that decision for themselves, irrespective of whether I or other clergy or Texas legislators agree with it.)
But if they do, and I believe Judaism would require them to have an abortion, I will absolutely defy the laws of the state of Texas and counsel them to do so. I may be breaking the law just saying this publicly, encouraging others to consider some abortions to be not only permitted but mandated.
I stand with the more than 1,000 other members of clergy who participate in the National Council of Jewish Women’s Rabbis for Repro campaign that encourages us to speak, teach and write about reproductive justice in the United States and in the Jewish community.
I don’t relish the thought of being sued by some ‘bounty hunter.’ But you know what? Jews have suffered for the right to practice their religion before, and probably will again.
So go ahead, Texas. Come and get me.