Op/Ed: A response on abortion from the Jewish community

This past week, a columnist from The Eagle posted an column titled “Anti-abortion debate deserves a spot on campus.” The article garnered a lot of attention online and many were offended by its content. We, as members of the Jewish community at AU, felt the need to clarify and address a few points raised by the author. We wish to do so while respecting his right to free speech, free press and the inviolable right to hold dissenting views.

While the author never explicitly said that his opinions on abortion were that of the Jewish religion, he did say in reference to abortion that “as a Jew, I feel deeply uncomfortable with humans deciding which lives are worthy enough to exist. On some level it reminds me of the Nazis.” Many might infer from this that Judaism does not approve of abortion.

However, among Rabbis and leaders across various denominations, almost all agree that an abortion is absolutely necessary if the pregnancy might cause physical or psychological harm to the mother. Judaism also believes that life begins at birth.

Rabbi Jonthan Biatch, from the Union for Reform Judaism says, “Abortion is an extremely difficult choice faced by a woman. In all circumstances, it should be her decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, backed up by those whom she trusts.”

The Committee for Jewish Laws and Standards from Conservative Judaism states that “an abortion is justifiable if a continuation of pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm.” The Conservative movement also “continues to affirm its strong opposition to any further weakening, limitation, or withdrawal of Roe v. Wade.”

Orthodox Judaism is more divided on the issue; however, all agree that abortion is mandatory to save the life of the mother. A leading Israeli authority on medical ethics, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, permits abortion for fetuses that are expected to be born with a deformity such as Tay-Sachs disease. Many Orthodox Rabbis hold that the mental health of the mother is very important when considering an abortion.

Many of the largest Jewish organizations in America advocate for pro-choice issues, such as the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center and Hadassah. A recent Pew study showed that 89 percent of American Jews believe that “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” In Israel, the right to an abortion is widely available with very few exceptions.

Finally, we take issue with the author’s choice to compare pro-choice advocates to Nazis. No matter his intention, the mention of Nazis in a debate concerning abortion is extraordinarily offensive to members of the Jewish community. Among us are the grandchildren, cousins and friends of Holocaust survivors and victims who suffered the true horrors of Hitler’s regime. The comparison of pro-choice advocates to a group that attempted to eradicate the Jewish people is absurd, divisive and hurtful.

We hope that all who read this are more informed about both Jewish opinions on abortion and the
sensitivities surrounding mentions of Nazism. We hope that the AU community can continue to
debate these issues in a matter that is both factual and respectful.

Aaron D. Stein, President of AU Jewish Student Association and 30 Jewish student leaders.

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