On the one hand, language used by JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance - a liberal Jewish feminist organization which - as their name indicates defines itself as Orthodox) seems to have adopted the position advocated by humanists. Excerpted in First Things it says:
“We support every woman’s legal right to make decisions about and have control over her own body.”
That is of course ridiculous. As an article in First Things by ‘Various’ (whatever that means) points out:
Nobody has the right to kill anybody else. Killing is only justified in a situation where killing an assailant is the only way to protect the right of their victim not to be killed. Hence there is only a mandate (hiyyuv) to abort a fetus when the only way to save the life of the mother is by aborting the fetus in utero mortally threatening her life there.
It turns out that JOFA has essentially the same position I do. Which is that for Jews, Halacha should be the determining factor. Not the State. It is nevertheless troubling that the last line is somewhat ambiguous - seeming to contradict the first part of the statement. Abortions do not only affect the woman. They affect the fetus - an eventual human being. That last line implies that the only thing significant here is the woman’s own body.
The Gemarah tells us that when a pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, the Uber (fetus) has the din of a Rodef. When someone (in this case the fetus) pursues you in order to kill you- your killing such an individual is considered ‘justifiable homicide’. Halacha in fact requires it. However, abortion on demand, although not a capital crime, is nevertheless Halachicly forbidden.
This same article notes, that in this country the incidence of abortions to save the life of the mother is less than 1%. Although they don’t say so explicitly, the inference is that we should embrace the Pro-Life Movement and reverse Roe v Wade.
I reject that notion. I support the Pro Choice position on Roe v Wade. Not because I believe in their agenda of abortion on demand. I am firmly opposed to that on moral grounds. The idea that a woman has a right to do with her body whatever she wishes extends only to her body. Not to the eventual human being she carries within it.
I prefer the procedure be legal so that when Halacha permits it, it should be as accessible as any other medical procedure. That permit is not necessarily limited to saving the life of the mother. There are legitimate Poskim actually permit an abortion (up to the third trimester - if I remember correctly) in other cases – such as a Tay-Sachs baby. There is also more latitude for abortions during the first forty days after conception. A fetus is Halachicly considered mere ‘water’ until then.
Making abortion illegal would therefore go against our best interests as Jews. We need to be able to decide for ourselves when an abortion is permissible and when it is not. Not the ‘State’.
The Jewish position on abortion needs to be made clear. We should not be joining the Pro-Life movement whose ultimate goal is to return to the pre Roe v Wade days. But neither should we join promote the Pro Choice position of abortion on demand.
We should be in favor of keeping the procedure safe, legal, and rare. Common sense!
*The original post was written with a misunderstanding of JOFA’s views on abortion. I apologize and have updated the post accordingly.(HT dr. bill )