web analytics
July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Why Do We Let Abortions Become a ‘Leftist’ Issue?

In considering the rights of the unborn child versus the mother's, Jewish law sides with the viable life—mother, against the potential life—fetus.
F110526YZ06

Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

JTA’s Ron Kampeas reported Thursday, under the headline “Liberal Jewish groups unleash on doomed abortion bill,” that liberal (meaning left-wing) Jewish groups “fired a verbal barrage against a restrictive abortion bill passed by the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives, calling it ‘egregious,’ ‘outrageous,’ ‘an affront,’ and ‘deeply disappointing.’

According to Kampeas, the bill, which passed the House last Tuesday in a 228-196 vote, would ban abortions after 20 weeks, a time when the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), says “the fetus feels pain.”

“We know that yesterday’s vote was symbolic, since the Senate will not take up the bill and the president has said he would veto it,” Barbara Weinstein, the director of the Reform movement’s Commission on Social Action, said in a statement. “Yet the symbolism of the bill’s House passage is indeed important, demonstrating the unfortunate reality that women’s reproductive rights remain at risk.”

According to the National Council of Jewish Women, the bill “imposes one particular set of religious beliefs on the entire nation, and denies women the ability to make their own decisions about their health and their future without political interference.”

Why do we, observant Jews, leave the talking on the abortion issue to the Reform? Why do we create the impression—with the absence of prestigious, Orthodox Jewish voices on the halacha regarding abortions—that our tradition is synonymous with the Christian teachings on the same issue?

Jewish law does set a point in the gestation, following which the fetus becomes viable – 40 days. Past that period, as Menachem Elon—who authored the Encyclopedia Judaica article on abortion—put it: “…abortion, although prohibited, does not constitute murder (Tos., Sanh. 59a; Hul. 33a).”

In fact, in considering the rights of the unborn child versus the mother’s, Jewish law sides with the viable life—mother, against the potential life—fetus. Therefore, as Rashi comments, on Sanhedrin 72b: “Regarding a woman having a difficult birth which threatens her life, the midwife may insert her hand and cut up the fetus and extract it in pieces, because as long as it hasn’t come out into the world it is not considered a living being and one may kill it to save its mother.”

Now, obviously, Jewish law does not promote abortion, nor even approve of it tacitly. All it says is that, under no circumstances, is it tantamount to murder, and that when the health of the mother is in conflict with the health of the unborn baby, we save the mother’s life at the expense of the fetus’s, even at the last minute of the third trimester. So long as the fetus has not taken its first breath, it does not have equal rights.

This is the core of our belief in the rabbinical permission to perform abortions. Not because the fetus isn’t a viable person until the 40th day of gestation, but because it is not a complete person until the very end of gestation. When it has taken its first breath it has become equal to its mother, two living human beings each with the right to life. In that state, if the fetus poses a life-danger to the mother, it is ruled a “rodef” or potential killer, and may be removed. Until it has completed its exit from the womb, even if it is stuck halfway, as long as it hasn’t taken a breath it’s still part of its mother, and, sadly, we would terminate its life to save the mother’s.

In other words, not only do the Rabbis permit late-term abortion, they actually base their entire understanding of the legal relationship between mother and fetus on the late-term conflict between those two lives, one which is fully realized and one which is still only potential. And in rabbinical law we always go with the life we have, not the life that might appear in the future.

We desperately need, at a time when the discussion over abortion appears to be between the religious, who are anti-abortion no matter what, and the secularists, who are pro-abortion, any time any place, an authoritative halachic voice that would teach the world our Rabbis’ excellent understanding of this painful issue.

Why do we concede the arena to hysterical voices from both sides?

The Rabbinical Council of America does have a fine, even eloquent position on abortions, dated 1990. I could not find a later statement. This one is unambiguous, for sure, but it doesn’t exactly constitute an attempt to be a guiding light to the unwashed masses:

Jun 1, 1990 – Abortion

The Rabbinical Council of America in Convention assembled Takes note of the different values of the many religious communities in America that are often at variance with one another, in the nature of a politically pluralistic society;

Is aware that the question of abortion is currently in the forefront of moral concerns in American society;

Proclaims that neither the position of “pro-life” nor the position of “pro-choice” is acceptable to Halacha;

Precludes the endorsement of legislative measures which would impede the appropriate application of Halacha;

Calls upon the total Jewish community to acknowledge that abortion is not an option, except in extreme circumstances and in consultation with proper Halachic authority.

I think it’s time for louder voices in support of sanity in the spirit of Jewish tradition on this issue, where the crazies have been running the show for quite some time now.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

69 Responses to “Why Do We Let Abortions Become a ‘Leftist’ Issue?”

  1. Myriam Obadia says:

    OK, See all you superstitious naysayers? We told you this was what the Halacha said. It's in no way a good thing, but abortion -like divorce- is the only remedy in some circumstances. Now, just pray the choice isn't forced on anyone and comfort those who had to make it, instead of cursing them.

  2. Bridget Baker says:

    Well said, Muriel.

  3. Shira Louis Yashin says:

    In no way is abortion on demand allowed. It is only allowed to save the mother's life. Not to make the mother feel better, but to save her life. Meaning, her life would be in danger otherwise. Got it?

  4. If we base our position on commentary or emotion then there is no counter argument. If, however, we base our position on Torah we must consider that a fetus is a person and a nation. B'reishiet 25.

  5. If we base our position on commentary or emotion then there is no counter argument. If, however, we base our position on Torah we must consider that a fetus is a person and a nation. B'reishiet 25.

  6. Dawn Yonah says:

    Abortion is murdering your unborn child… That's a fact. Your explanation of "halacha" shows how we can easily not see the forest for the trees when trying to legally justify something we all know in our spirit is WRONG. An unfortunate case of a mother's life truly being in danger is extremely rare and should not mitigate our disgust with the "crime against humanity" that is abortion. I am truly saddened that it is so accepted in Israel – truly, the "innocent blood" cries out to HaShem and we pay for this crime in many unseen ways.

  7. Charlie Hall says:

    Thank you for your accurate statement of the traditional Jewish position on abortion.

  8. Charlie Hall says:

    Actually, many of the leading poskim of the 20th century are very lenient in practice, allowing an abortion when there is pretty much any threat to the mother, and also allowing an abortion when the fetus has a genetic defect.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    Dawn,

    You need to improve your knowledge of Jewish teachings. Abortion is not treated by the Torah as murder and Yori has accurately presented how the Torah does treat abortion.

  10. Charlie Hall says:

    The entirety of the Jewish rabbinic tradition disagrees with you. You can make up stuff to justify your opinion but it isn't Judaism.

  11. She uses Rashi as a source. That source is only to save the life of the mother from imminent death. No other reason.

  12. Anonymous says:

    According to the Sefer Hachinuch, a gentile who kills a fetus is liable to the death penaly.

  13. THE Halakha is definitely PRO-LIFE. The ONLY accepted reason to kill the fetus is "if the fetus poses a life-danger to the mother, it… may be removed." There are some interpretations of the term "life-danger", but the principle is clear.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The problem is that "health of the mother" is often dumbed down to mean, "I don't want to take responsibility for going through this pregnancy and having this child, so I'm going to get rid of it."

  15. Sabra Feldman says:

    I see a misinterpretation or misrepresentation of halacha here. There is an enormous difference between what the Sages said and what the leftists in the US govt want in terms of late-term abortion. The Sages' definition applies to a drastic situation in which the midwife must decide to save the mother's life over the fetus's during labor. The sages definitely did NOT say, "if you decide late term that you do not want to have your baby, you can go to a clinic, have labor induced, and abort your baby."

  16. Sabra Feldman says:

    Actually, the way Dawn Yonah says it sums up the issue perfectly, much better than I could have done.

  17. Yori Yanover says:

    Michael Mostofsky · I'm not sure. Poskim have broadened the "Rodef" status to include damage that is less severe than outright death. But, without a doubt, we have no source in mainstream halacha that equates abortion with murder.

  18. Yori Yanover says:

    Sabra Feldman · I agree with you. But even as you describe it, there can be multiple interpretations of what "drastic" means, and what the "mother's life" means. And halacha provides for our poskim a lot of wiggle room.

  19. Charlie Hall says:

    Michael, Rashi is not the last word. Learn the positions of 20th century poskim.

  20. Charlie Hall says:

    That is actually in the Talmud. But also in the Talmud is the fact that nothing permitted to Jews is prohibited to non-Jews, so there would be no penalty when the mother's life is in danger, or in the other cases where contemporary poskim have permitted Jewish women to have abortions.

  21. Charlie Hall says:

    Many of the greatest poskim have permitted abortions when the fetus has a genetic defect, so your statement "ONLY accepted reason" is wrong.

  22. Charlie Hall says:

    Sabra, many poskim have permitted abortions in other cases. Rav Soloveitchik z'tz'l permitted aborting a Tay-Sachs fetus through the sixth month of pregnancy even when there was no danger to the mother.

  23. Charlie Hall says:

    Sabra, many poskim have permitted abortions in other cases. Rav Soloveitchik z'tz'l permitted aborting a Tay-Sachs fetus through the sixth month of pregnancy even when there was no danger to the mother.

  24. Charlie Hall says:

    Sabra, many poskim have permitted abortions in other cases. Rav Soloveitchik z'tz'l permitted aborting a Tay-Sachs fetus through the sixth month of pregnancy even when there was no danger to the mother.

  25. The vast majority of abortions that are performed are not performed because the life of the mother is at risk. The vast majority of abortions are abortions of convenience or abortions in pursuit of a one child policy such as in China. In those cases Jewish law is opposed to abortion. I am secular and I'm opposed to abortion unless it will save the mother or the fetus is a few cells.

  26. Sabra Feldman says:

    I understand your point of view, and I understand the situations when a late term abortion might be necessary. However, I do not agree with legislation that makes a late term abortion as accessible as chewing gum. I have always felt that abortion, as with all medical topics, must be handled on a case-by-case basis, but unfortunately, Big Govt feels that it must legislate via blanket laws, and the people if the US and other countries turn over their power to the govt to make such legislation. So, in that manner, I am neither in the pro-life nor pro-choice camps as defined by commonly prevailing American sentiment. Instead, I view abortion as a medical procedure that must be handled on a case by case basis — but there is no room for that type of thinking anymore, it seems. This happens to be a very personal issue for me as well.

  27. Amen to your good statement, "Abortion is not an option except in extreme circumstances", Thank you.

  28. Yori Yanover No the Halacha is very clear, the wiggle room that you talking about the leftists provides.

  29. Anonymous says:

    There are close to 50,000 abortions in Israel every year, many of which are because the mother has economic, not health, concerns. There is a wonderful organization in Jerusalem called Efrat, which provides support to pregnant women in distress. Go to http://www.friendsofefrat.org.

  30. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    Well I'm sure someone who likes "Hookers for Jesus" on Facebook is a solid authority on halacha, amIrite?

  31. Myles Kantor says:

    On the reference to Rav Soloveitchik zt"l and Tay-Sachs in the comments, let's be mindful of Rav Soloveitchik's general view on abortion, from The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Shemos:

    –"…to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted. It's not a clamor anymore, it's a legislated fact. How can a mother come to a doctor and say to the doctor to kill her baby?"

    –"I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it's also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children."

    –"And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they'll be looked upon as reactionaries."

    Considering abortion in a gentile/Noahide context, the following appears in the translation of Rabbi Moshe Weiner's Sefer Sheva Mitzvot HaShem (The Divine Code):

    1) "One who hits a pregnant woman and kills her embro, or a doctor who performs an aboortion–by which process the embryo cannot possibly live, or a doctor who gives the mother medicine for the purpose of aborting the embryo or killing it in place, or a pregnant woman who took this action herself, are all liable to be punished for murder in a court of law."

    2) "Even if the mother has emotional justification for not wanting the pregnancy (for example, in cases of rape or incest), aborting the fetus is forbidden according to the severity of the prohibition of murder. If it is known that the child she is carrying will be born with a fatal illness or defect, it is nevertheless forbidden to abort the fetus, and one who does so is a murderer."

    3) "A pregnant woman whose own life is at risk because of her pregnancy is permitted to have an abortion."

    A footnote to second point states: "Sridei Aish, vol. 1. ch. 162, permits abortion for a Jew in the first 40 days if the child will have a permanent illness or defect that will impede normal living; it appears that the same applies for Gentiles and there is allowance for them to do so, but requests for this permission should be judged very carefully because of the severity of the prohibition of murder."

  32. Esther O'Campo says:

    Some people have mentioned that there are poskim who permit abortion if the fetus is known to have genetic defect. I think this category deserves clarification. There is a clear difference between a baby who has Tay Sachs and will die young after terrible suffering, versus a baby who will have Down Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. These may present real challenges for the parents, but the children often live productive and fulfilling lives and there is increasing awareness and support for such families. To generalize about genetic defects creates the possibility of "halachic" abortions being done for convenience.
    Everyone agrees that if the fetus is a serious threat to the mother's physical health abortion is not only permitted but required, but with the constant advances in medicine I wonder how many potential abortions fall within that category. The question of mental health is more complicated, for example in the case of a woman who is pregnant from rape or incest (G-d forbid). If carrying a child conceived in such a manner is a constant reminder of being attacked and causes her to feel suicidal, then it is not a case of simply "making her feel better" but of saving her life. But again, I doubt that many desired abortions fall within that category.

  33. Esther O'Campo says:

    Some people have mentioned that there are poskim who permit abortion if the fetus is known to have genetic defect. I think this category deserves clarification. There is a clear difference between a baby who has Tay Sachs and will die young after terrible suffering, versus a baby who will have Down Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. These may present real challenges for the parents, but the children often live productive and fulfilling lives and there is increasing awareness and support for such families. To generalize about genetic defects creates the possibility of "halachic" abortions being done for convenience.
    Everyone agrees that if the fetus is a serious threat to the mother's physical health abortion is not only permitted but required, but with the constant advances in medicine I wonder how many potential abortions fall within that category. The question of mental health is more complicated, for example in the case of a woman who is pregnant from rape or incest (G-d forbid). If carrying a child conceived in such a manner is a constant reminder of being attacked and causes her to feel suicidal, then it is not a case of simply "making her feel better" but of saving her life. But again, I doubt that many desired abortions fall within that category.

  34. Esther O'Campo says:

    Some people have mentioned that there are poskim who permit abortion in a case where the baby is known to have a genetic defect. I think this category deserves clarification. There is an obvious difference between a baby who will be born with Tay Sachs and die young after terrible suffering, versus a baby with Down Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. These may present real challenges for the parents, but the children often lead productive and fulfilling lives and there is increasing support for and awareness of such families. To generalize about genetic defects creates the possibility of "halachic" abortions being done for convenience.
    Everyone agrees that if the fetus poses a serious threat to the mother's physical health, we are required to do an abortion to save her life. But with the constant advances in medicine, I wonder how many potential abortions fall into this category. The question of mental health is more complicated, for example if a woman is pregnant as a result of rape or incest (G-d forbid). If carrying a baby conceived in such a manner is a constant reminder of being attacked and is causing her to feel desperate or suicidal, then it is not a question of making her feel better but of saving her life. But again, I doubt that many desired abortions are a result of such a situation.

  35. Bert Schlossberg says:

    The world we live in is a slippery slope down and somewhere along the way someone or someones need to dig in their heels, not only to save themselves but those above them also from slipping down. Not to do that now until all the niceties and distinction are understoood is suicidal to us all. Men marry men, women marry women, hundreds of thousands of living babies in the womb killed "just like that", whole races and classes of people slaughtered with no one to stop it, I think that each of us can add to the list. We don't need to know the final definitions and it is ok even required that we "err on the right side." The little ones in the womb, they may not have a breath yet, just a heart beat, because they do not have a voice themselves, they need ours.

  36. Bert Schlossberg says:

    The world we live in is a slippery slope down and somewhere along the way someone or someones need to dig in their heels, not only to save themselves but those above them also from slipping down. Not to do that now until all the niceties and distinction are understoood is suicidal to us all. Men marry men, women marry women, hundreds of thousands of living babies in the womb killed "just like that", whole races and classes of people slaughtered with no one to stop it, I think that each of us can add to the list. We don't need to know the final definitions and it is ok even required that we "err on the right side." The little ones in the womb, they may not have a breath yet, just a heart beat, because they do not have a voice themselves, they need ours.

  37. Dawn forgive me, I read too much emotion in your comment. You've seen Rabbinical opinion on this matter. There are many threats to a woman's life concerning birthing. Desperate women have no other choice. Rabbinical law at least takes this on board. Abortion is not Murder, late evacuation of the womb is not abortion or murder. There are plenty of medical reasons for evacuation of the womb. For example a pregnancy sustained until sixteen weeks can suddenly turn septic, evacuation womb has to be carried out, due to the miscarriage.

  38. Where or on earth did you gig this up?!

  39. Thank you Charlie Hall, I should have read your credentials, Medical man.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Map of Gaza City rocket launcher sites in school yard. July 22, 2014
UNRWA School Shelters Rockets (Again!) and Residents in Gaza
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredi soldiers of the Neztah Yehuda Battalion fight for Israel while maintaining Torah study in the army,

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

The Israel Test

Charges from the court of world public opinion and their refutations.


It is up to our government to ensure that their sacrifices were not made for short-term gains.

.

Supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has become dangerous in Malmo.

Proportionality Doctrine:The greater the military gain the greater the justifiable collateral damage

Regional pro-US Arab countries rely on Israel as a deterrence to rogue Islamic regimes.

He has always supported the underdog, once even quite literally, legislating a law that prohibits the abandonment of pets.

Temech is about providing a community – a place where religious women can learn, collaborate and refresh themselves with like-minded people.

Netanyahu has decided that the lives of Israeli are more important than looking good for Obama, U.N. and the NY Times.

Many Jews join the Israel-haters with their progressive ideology and politically correct obsessions.

“The will to triumph is a prerequisite for victory.” Abba Kovner

How can you run away from Israel and all the things that have shaped your life?

It’s as if Hamas has pulled a page out of Pharaoh’s handbook.

“Am HaNetzach Eino Mefached Mi Derech Aruka” (An eternal people doesn’t fear the long journey).

Isn’t it comforting to know that our God loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?

More Articles from Yori Yanover
rain ATM

A Jerusalem woman is trying to hold on to her umbrella while withdrawing some cash at a Meah Shearim ATM, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The rain appeared out of the blue (which is how rain should), after a warm week that started to feel like summer. Well, it don’t feel like summer no more. Last […]

Rabbi Meir Mazuz (seen visiting a synagogue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn) declared in a public Internet psak that it is legal for a Jew to go up to temple Mount.

Needless to say, Shas, the Haredi Sefardi party, is not happy.

“The only difference between this world and the time of Meshiach is our bondage to the gentile kingdoms.”

Here’s the Israeli Navy boat INS Hanit arriving in Eilat on Saturday, March 8, 2014, after capturing the Klos C, which was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied weapons made in Syria and intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip. Here’s Israeli Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ram Rotberg speaking with the INS Hanit soldiers in […]

Pat Condell has a new video out, so, sit back, have fun. By the way, Message to Offended Muslims should not be confused with Message to Off Handed Muslims. Also, I’d love to hear what he has to say about Haredim.

The description that came with this picture says: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with American actor Bette Midler during an event at the house of Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in Hollywood on March 6, 2014. But Bette Midler is not really an actor, she’s a singer who made movies for the LGBT community and […]

We will shut them up in the campuses, we will shut them up in the high schools, we will shut them up at the 92nd St. Y.

An Israeli female soldier (because they’re better at removing babies from their homes) evacuates a baby from a settlement in Judea and Samaria some time in the recent past. I’m thinking, if the baby was angry enough, couldn’t he evacuate in return, right there in her arms? Imagine the same picture, except with a settler […]

    Latest Poll

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-do-we-let-abortions-become-a-leftist-issue/2013/06/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: