Texas abortion law sparks conflict among US Jews

Texas abortion law sparks conflict among US Jews September 17, 2021

EARLIER this month we reported that an American rabbi had lashed out against Texas’ new draconian abortion law. Danny Horwitz stated: “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.”

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Since then it’s been reported that Rabbi Moshe Parnes, above, of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), which represents over 1500 traditional, Orthodox rabbis in matters of public policy, has condemned Jewish groups who have spoken out against  the law.

The CJV said groups such as the “left-wing” National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and Rabbis for Repro have distorted Jewish teachings, devalued the sanctity of life, and caused a desecration of God’s Name.

Rabbis for Repro’s website declares:

Our tradition not only permits the termination of pregnancy, but even requires it when the life of the pregnant person is at stake.

And, the fact of the matter is, it’s a part of our lives; one in four people who can get pregnant will terminate a pregnancy by the age of 45.

We know that limiting reproductive health access has disastrous consequences. Those who lack access to reproductive health care – disproportionately those struggling financially; Black, Indigenous, and  people of color communities; young people; rural communities; immigrants; people living with disabilities; and LGBTQ individuals – are more likely to live in poverty and to remain in abusive relationships. And unsafe abortions are a leading cause of death worldwide; high rates of unsafe abortions are directly associated with laws restricting access to critical health care.

Our communities should be places where anyone who has, or may ever, terminate a pregnancy feels loved and welcomed. They should be places where people understand what our tradition teaches about these issues.  And they should be places where we understand the importance of fighting for reproductive health, rights, and justice for everyone.

Now, more than ever, we need Jewish moral leadership to speak out for reproductive health, rights, and justice.

We must not remain idle while barriers to health care place any individual’s health, well-being, autonomy, or economic security at risk. And rabbis can help lead the fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice by educating their communities.

Meanwhile, NCJW says:

Reproductive health, rights, and justice go beyond the basics of reproduction. It requires us to dig deeper, advocate louder, and love harder. It requires us to center the voices of those who have been marginalized at the center to lead the conversation for social change.

Until every person has the power to make their own informed decisions about their body, sexuality, and future, our work is not over.

Parnes, CJV’s Southern Regional Vice President, vehemently disagrees:

Rabbinic literature is abundantly clear that fetuses with beating hearts are alive, just as the new Texas law mandates.

This has been the accepted ruling for millennia and doesn’t change at the whim of the modern pseudo-scholars of ‘Rabbis for Repro’ who try to force their ‘woke’ personal values into timeless Jewish teachings.

They make Judaism look repugnant in the eyes of anyone who recognizes that an unborn child is a human being worthy of protection, which is the very definition of desecration of G-d’s name.

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This is in direct contrast to what Horwitz, above, said:

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 a 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.

CJV Rabbinic Circle Chairman Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, won’t have any of it.

The simple truth is that Jewish Law prohibits abortion. This prohibition may be overridden to save the mother’s life, which is also recognized in the Texas Heartbeat Law. An on-demand approach to abortion, no matter what Jewish advocates may say, violates Judaism’s clear and emphatic declaration of the sanctity of life.

I should point out that last year the CJV launched a campaign to stop media outlets from using the term “Ultra-Orthodox Jews” to identify the Haredi (traditional Orthodox) community.

Rabbi Parnes is spearheading the Ultra Initiative. He declared:

This effort is sorely needed, and benefits all of society. Ultra-Orthodox’ is clearly a pejorative term that connotes extremism and intolerance, and is used especially by those who wish to marginalize the Haredi community and to heap scorn on their religious practices, opinions and sensitivities.

Reducing bigotry against Hareidim is part of reducing bigotry against all minorities, and giving all individuals the respect that each person deserves.

Said Rabbi Dov Fisher, Western Regional Vice President of the CJV:

No one calls AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] ‘Ultra Socialist,’ Louis Farrakhan ‘Ultra Racist,’ or Hamas ‘Ultra Terrorist’. In a time of linguistic sensitivity, when we carefully refer to demographic groups by their chosen appellations like ‘Native American’ and ‘African-American,’ the time is long overdue for the media to stop using the insulting term ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ when referring to Jews associated with the Hasidic and Lithuanian philosophies of Jewish observance.

Hat tip: Antony Niall

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