Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Reproductive rights, the Bible and the Constitution

By Mel Pearlman

The latest legislative assault on a woman’s reproductive rights is a dangerous and threatening assault on the U.S. Constitution itself. Supporters of these newly introduced state laws prohibiting abortion in every instance believe the act of aborting a pregnancy, even in its earliest phases of development, to be the murder of a human being.

The danger to our constitution arises because that belief is not based on science or a societal consensus of a well-defined social harm, but is based on a religious conviction that human life exists at conception and aborting a fetus at any stage after conception is a sin.

A crime in a free society is defined as a “social harm proscribed by law.” Where no societal consensus of a social harm exists, and there is much scientific uncertainty when human life even becomes viable, no criminal act can occur. Under what theory of law should one person’s perception of sin become another person’s criminal act?

These latest laws enacted by a significant number of state legislatures have ignored the great social harm that occurs if medical abortions are absolutely prohibited. Where is the religious compassion and concern for the innocent victim of a rape or where the woman’s mental and physical health is concerned?

I certainly respect the religious beliefs of all Americans, but let us remember, we all do not have the same religious beliefs; and our constitution recognizes that no American has the right to impose his or her religious beliefs on any other American.

On the contrary, the 1st Amendment to our constitution expressly prohibits the congress and through the14th Amendment, the legislatures of the various states, from enacting legislation based on religious beliefs.

There is a further basis for the courts to reject this legislation: The 4th Amendment demands that, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons,... shall not be violated,...”

Performing a safe medical procedure performed by a licensed medical professional with the consent of his or her patient for the purpose of the well-being of that patient, especially in the case of rape or the mental or physical health of the patient is well within the domain of the freedoms in which the government has no authority to intervene.

If your religious beliefs lead you to consider abortion a sin, then by all means you should avoid having the procedure. You do however, have a constitutional right to peacefully and without intimidation try to persuade others not to engage in the practice.

You also have a constitutional responsibility and a moral obligation as well, not to compel any other person to accept your beliefs or to refrain from acting in a manner which you perceive as sinful.

Respect for one another’s beliefs and freedoms is the underpinning of our American existence. While the teachings of the Torah guide my personal behavior as a member of the Jewish faith, and the teachings of other faith’s writings may guide the personal behavior of that faith’s adherents, we should all be reminded that as Americans we have a right and a responsibility to see that only the U.S. Constitution guides the government’s behavior.

If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.

Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first Vice President and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.


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