Monday, October 04, 2021

Abortion Again

A fetus in utero (Stanford Children's Health)

There’s been quite a debate about abortion over at Cross-Currents. That is due to the recent decisions limiting it in some states. The most recent of which is Texas. They have outlawed the procedure after 6 weeks of pregnancy.

I've written about this issue numerous times. But the debate is heating up. There have been protests by pro-choice advocates all over the country objecting to the severe limitations on abortion in states like Texas. With the Supreme Court now in session, that issue will surely come up. The fear by pro-choice advocates is that with a conservative (6 -3) supermajority, the Texas abortion law will stand and eventually become a model for other states.

With all this in mind I want to reiterate what I believe to be the correct Jewish approach to abortion in this country. We should be in favor of keeping abortion legal. We should be opposed to any restrictions on it. That said, the intentions of pro-life advocates are honorable. They see themselves as saving lives. They consider the the fetus to be a human life and abortion as murder. 

What about those of us who are pro-life and favor the Texas law - arguing that it has provisions that allow abortion in certain circumstances. Provisions that mirror Jewish law. Such as when the life of the mother is at stake. 

This is true. But there are circumstances where Judaism would permit an abortion that the Texas law does not recognize. Especially since there are legitimate conflicting opinions by various Poskim on when it is or is not permitted. That we might be able to get an exemption based on religious considerations would at the very least delay the procedure. And at worst it may even not be granted.

One of the arguments made on Cross Currents by those Orthodox Jews  that oppose abortion is it constitutes murder. And therefore any advocacy permitting it is tantamount to suborning murder.  

To say it is murder is a bit misleading. Yes the Gemarah calls it murder… as do modern day Poskim. But unlike the murder of a actual human being, aborting a fetus is not a capital offense in Judaism. One is not executed in a Jewish court of law (Misas Beis Din) even of all the conditions are satisfied (e.g. 2 Kosher witnesses that warned the perpetrator of the consequences of his actions - including informing him of the exact punishment the Torah demands for that crime.)

This of course does not mean that abortion is permitted wholesale in Halacha. It is not - other than in limited circumstances. (What those circumstance include depends on which Poskim one consults.)

What about the oft heard pro-choice cry that a woman should have the right to control her own body - a position recently advocated by Vice President Harris?

That sounds like a compelling argument. Of course women should have that right. But when it comes to abortion there is another issue to consider – the potential life of an unborn fetus that will be almost surely born if an abortion is not performed. How can any human being not understand that it isn’t only about having control over their own body? Clearly there is a lot more at stake than simply a woman having the right to control her own body.

I nevertheless remain convinced  that abortion should be completely legal without any government interference. So that when it is needed and Halahicly mandated, it will be available without delay or the need for special dispensation. Which may or may not be given.

To be clear, that abortions are done on demand for reasons that do not rise to the level of moral justification (which for us is defined by Halacha) is repugnant. But making abortion illegal is not the way to deal with that. We have no control over what other people do in a free country. But in our charge as a 'Light unto the Nations', we have an obligation to speak out against it in those cases while being assured that the procedure remains legal.

As I’ve said before (quoting former President Bill Clinton) abortions should be ‘safe, legal, and rare’. Could not agree more.