Questioning what Jews say about abortion


Dear Editor:

I had the opportunity to pick up the May 13, 2022 issue of Heritage.  Not having read it in many months, I was impressed at the many articles, which were on top of critical issues facing Jews in America today.

One article, however, raised more questions for me than it answered: “What do Jews say about abortion?”  by Phillissa Cramer via JTA

Cramer does not explain what overturning Roe v. Wade means. “Jewish women in dozens of states will almost certainly become unable to access care that they might well decide is required religiously,” says Cramer. Nowhere does she clarify that this is a state-by-state issue, with at least 43 states likely to have gestational, not total, limits on abortion. Those with the tightest limits, no doubt will be those with the lowest Jewish population:

South Dakota - 250 Jews; Mississippi - 1,525 Jews; North Dakota - 400 Jews; Arkansas - 2,225 Jews; Oklahoma - 4,425 Jews (just past legislation “no abortion”; Idaho - 2,125 Jews; West Virginia - 2,310 Jews; Montana - 1,495 Jews; Iowa - 5,475 Jews; Utah - 5,650 Jews*


Halacha law is referred to several times in the article: The first time, abortion is allowed, Cramer asserts “in some circumstances, particularly when the life or health of the pregnant person is at stake.” Then, Rabbi Shafran promotes “regulation of abortion through laws that generally prohibit the unjustifiable killing of fetuses while protecting the right to abortion in exceptional cases.”  Unjustifiable? Exceptional?  Rape and incest? 

There is NO Constitutional right to abortion, that is the issue now before the Supreme Court. The states anti-abortion policymakers according to have been focused on four types of abortion: 15-week, “Texas-style,” total bans and bans designed to be triggered if Roe is overturned. Other than Oklahoma, hardly any other state will totally abolish abortion.

I read on Abortion on demand — the “right to choose” (as well as the “right to die”) — are thus completely at odds with our religious and halachic values. ... Jewish law prioritizes the life of the pregnant mother over the life of the fetus such that where the pregnancy critically endangers the physical health or mental health of the mother, an abortion may be authorized, if not mandated, by Halacha (Jewish law) and should be available to all women irrespective of their economic status.  ... As a general rule, abortion in Judaism is permitted only if there is a direct threat to the life of the mother by carrying the fetus to term or through the act of childbirth.

While researching this, a topic I have not seen in general discussion: Medical abortions. “Guttmacher research shows that following two decades of safe and effective use, medication abortion accounted for 54 percent of all U.S. abortions in 2020.” Questions include up to what point of the pregnancy should they be allowed, who prescribes, etc.

Clearly there is plenty of room for discussion about abortion. On May 6, 2022, Pew Research Center reported: “A majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but many are open to restrictions; many opponents of legal abortion say it should be legal in some circumstances.”

It would be great if news sources would more fully and fairly present arguments, recognizing this dichotomy.

In researching this topic, I found answers to some of these questions in past issues of Heritage.  It’s time for me to subscribe, again!

Gloria Green

Winter Garden, Fla.


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