Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Access to Abortion & Religious Liberty

From NBC News:

The Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade answered the prayers of conservative Christians across the U.S. who rallied against the landmark 1973 ruling for nearly half a century. But many American Jews are dismayed, and some Jewish leaders view restrictions on reproductive rights as an attack on religious liberty.

In statements following the release of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the ruling that overruled Roe, organizations such as the American Jewish Committeethe Anti-Defamation LeagueHillel International and the Women's Rabbinic Network expressed deep anguish.

"In this moment, our feelings are best embodied by Numbers 11:10: 'God became exceedingly angry; and Moses despaired.' ... We stand with generations of Jewish scholars who state clearly and unequivocally that abortion access is a Jewish value," the Women’s Rabbinic Network said.

The decision to sweep away Roe and about 50 years of legal precedent, the group went on to say, "must be understood as a violation of the United States Constitution which guarantees our freedom to practice our religion and also our freedom from the dictates of other religions."

In the eyes of many Jewish leaders, anti-abortion laws are particularly distressing because they contradict Jewish halakha — the laws drawn from the Torah, the Mishnah and the Talmud, the most sacred and authoritative texts in the tradition — according to Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Los Angeles.

Feinstein cited several passages from Jewish scripture that have grounded the religion's position on reproductive rights in the modern era, such as a line from the Judaic oral tradition stating that the life of a "woman who is having difficulty in giving birth" must "take precedence."

He said the reasoning undergirding anti-abortion legislation in some conservative-skewing states typically comes out of conservative Christian theology — ignoring the Jewish principle that a fetus in the womb has "potential" but not the status of full personhood.

"The idea that life begins at conception is a philosophical idea, and the source of that idea is a religious source: Catholic and evangelical interpretation of scripture," Feinstein said. "But our tradition has a different idea, that full life begins at birth, and there is a different moral standard.

"It's another example of where a particular religion's perception of the world has taken hold of American culture," Feinstein added.

The question of religious liberty, a term usually associated with the Christian right, looms over anti-abortion legislation slated to become law in Florida under Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is widely expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Read more here.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2022/06/access-to-abortion-religious-liberty.html

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