New York recently adopted legislation that devalues life by liberalizing abortion laws in the state. The Rabbinical Alliance of America–Igud Harabbonim, representing more than 800 rabbis serving throughout the United States, vigorously opposes this new law, which includes the decriminalization of the destruction of a fetus and which allows for late-term abortions. This law declares abortion a right, in contradiction to basic biblical ethics. To paraphrase the Torah (Bereishis 9:6), one who takes the life of a “person within a person” shall be held accountable. This teaches that the act of intentionally terminating a pregnancy absent extenuating medical circumstances constitutes a grave sin, either on a biblical or rabbinic level.
Leading Torah scholars such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky have publicly called such abortion “murder,” which highlights the seriousness with which we must approach this issue. As with most medical issues, there may be other considerations that enter into the equation that require consultation with a medical professional and a competent rabbi. However, the intentional termination of a fetus should never be done casually as there are two lives at risk — the mother’s and the unborn child’s.
Judaism permits, and even at times requires, that a true therapeutic abortion be performed to save the life of a mother if there is a real threat to her safety from the pregnancy. In such cases, it is usually preferable to do this within the first 40 days of the pregnancy, but it can still be permitted even later in pregnancy if necessary. In all such cases, the medical facts must be clarified and a highly knowledgeable rabbi must be consulted to ensure that the correct medical and religious approach is ascertained.
Rabbi Aaron Glatt, MD, said, “An intentional abortion performed by a practitioner for the sole purpose of terminating an otherwise normal pregnancy and fetus is a grave sin. We must strive to preserve and enhance life in all its forms.”
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, RAA/Igud Presidium Chairman, noted that New York State and its legislative organs have displayed a troubling disregard of the observant Jewish population within the state, as well as to the millions of the state’s residents of all faith communities who oppose abortion on religious and moral imperatives.
Compassion and respect for life requires balancing the needs of the unborn with those of the mother. For too long, this country has lost its balance and allowed for widespread, unjustified destruction of fetuses. The recent New York law pushes that balance further askew. RAA/Igud prays for a day when that balance is restored and all life is cherished.