Sign In Forgot Password

Texas Abortion Law

10/29/2021 01:32:28 PM

Oct29

Often times one of the hardest aspects of life is how fast it moves and how there just isn’t time for everything under the sun.  Issues that affect us all arise and the craziness of life pushes those issues, sadly sometimes, to the back burner.  However, the pushing back of the ability to address issues in the moment when they arise can also be a blessing.  It allows us to rekindle a fire that might have waned in the time between when something comes up and when we can devote the proper time and attention to it.

The busyness of life is no excuse for not bringing attention to important issues.  On September 1st Texas enacted one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, making it all but illegal to get an abortion.  This law was passed right during the high holidays and it is important that we do not let abortion rights fall to the wayside due to the hectic nature of life.

Join me tonight as I discuss the biblical values (or lack thereof) surrounding abortion.  In the weeks to come I will share resources on what one can do if they wish to help fight laws like the ones passed in Texas.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum of when life officially begins, Judaism is very clear about two things which must accompany any law around abortion:

1) Laws must be just.  We read in the bible, “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord your God gave you (Deuteronomy 16:18.  A law which disproportionally affects the poor, is excessively punitive, and is driven more by politics and power then ethics and values, is not just.  

2) We are obligated to protect the marginalized and vulnerable in our society.  Psalm 82:3-4:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Those with money and power won’t have an issue getting an abortion.  In the 1960’s before Roe v. Wade, those who could afford it could go to places that performed abortions because they had the money. (Consider this powerful story from the Atlantic by Elizabeth Stone, whose parents were able to give her $500 for an abortion in 1965.)  While it is true that states like California and New York will continue to offer abortions legally, imagine a poor woman in Texas who can’t afford that trip. She is stuck in a state that not only vilifies her, but locks her into a decision effectively sapping her of all power to decide with her free will (free will being another sacred Jewish value).  Therefore, when laws adversely affect the marginalized, as Jews we are obligated to speak up.

Here is the joint statement form the CCAR and the URJ on the Texas law:

REFORM MOVEMENT JOINT STATEMENT ON TEXAS ANTI-ABORTION LAW

September 1, 2021

In response to a new Texas anti-abortion law that came into effect today, leaders of Reform Jewish Movement institutions issued the following statement:

We denounce, in the strongest terms, the law that went into effect today in Texas, effectively making abortion care illegal in that state. In the most insidious state abortion restriction adopted to date, this Texas law makes abortion illegal as early as six weeks, before many are even aware that they are pregnant. The law is manipulatively designed to thwart courts’ ability to protect reproductive freedom, prohibiting state officials from enforcing the law but empowering any Texan to sue any person—an abortion provider, a counselor, a member of the clergy, a clinic worker, even a driver who delivers a person to a clinic, to name a few examples—who assists in accessing abortion care. For this reason, many Texas clinics are now unable to provide abortion care at all, as they are understandably unwilling to place their workers at intolerable risk from potentially ruinous lawsuits enabled by this Texas law.

We are concerned about individuals who cannot afford to travel long distances to secure abortion care in neighboring states. We are also deeply concerned about Jews who will be unable to pursue an abortion in keeping with Jewish law, which mandates abortion when necessary to preserve the pregnant person’s well-being. With respect to Judaism’s own limited approval of abortion: “as we would not impose the historic position of Jewish teaching upon individuals nor legislate it as normative for society at large, so we would not wish the position of any other group imposed upon the Jewish community or the general population.”[i] We also ground ourselves in kavod habriyot—the sacred obligation to provide medical care.

We will continue to work to overturn this law, prevent similar laws from being adopted in other states, and affirm the right of every person to make their own reproductive health decisions.

Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Lewis Kamrass, President
Rabbi Hara E. Person, Chief Executive

Union for Reform Judaism
Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, Chair
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President

Commission on Social Action and Religious Action Center
Susan Friedberg Kalson, Chair
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director

Women of Reform Judaism
Sara Charney, President
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director

Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rabbi Mary Zamore, Executive Director
Rabbi Beth Klafter & Rabbi Emily Segal, Co-Presidents

American Conference of Cantors
Cantor Claire Franco, President
Rachel Roth, Chief Operating Officer

NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Lev Mosbacher, President
Lynne Butner, Director of NFTY Engagement

Reform Pension Board
Leonard Teitelbaum, President
Michael A. Kimmel, Chief Executive Officer

Program & Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism
Jason Plotkin, President

Association of Reform Jewish Educators
Marisa Kaiser, President
Rabbi Stanley T. Schickler,  Executive Director

Men of Reform Judaism
Rob Himmelstein, President
Steven Portnoy, Executive Director

National Association for Temple Administration
Jack Feldman, President
Michael Liepman, Executive Director

Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism
Fern Katz, President
Tricia Ginis, Executive Director

National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis
Rabbi Sheldon Harr, President
Rabbis Julian & Susie Cook, Co-Executive Vice Presidents

[i] “State Restrictions on Access to Reproductive Health Services,” Resolution Adopted by the CCAR, April, 2008, State Restrictions on Access to Reproductive Health Services – Central Conference of American Rabbis (ccarnet.org).

In the coming weeks we will learn together more about Jewish perspectives around abortion and other issues people claim are biblical values.  For now, I invite you to join me tonight as we explore what the bible actually says about abortion.

Shabbat shalom!

Sat, December 4 2021 30 Kislev 5782