Reproductive Justice is a Jewish Issue
by Judy Leavitt
Abortion Bans Are Against My Religion – that is the message magnet I attached to my car. From the National Council of Jewish Women, the message clearly proclaims a fundamental First Amendment and Jewish perspective on abortion – Jews do not want to be governed by policies that reflect a majority Christian view. Since the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court that overturned a constitutional right to abortion, these messages have been amplified by policies that states are instituting.
On my way into a store a few days ago, a woman came up and wanted to know what the magnet message meant. Before I had a chance to explain, she was already screaming that life begins at conception. I walked away annoyed, but realized it is the first time in almost a year that anyone had reacted so vociferously to the magnet. When I got home and walked around the back of the car on the way into the house, I looked at the magnet: written across in
indelible ink, Baby Killer!
It clearly was a reminder that we live in a community where, as Jews, we are a religious minority. For me, it was a motivator to continue the fight that I began more than 50 years ago in upstate New York when I worked for my Assemblywoman, Constance Cook, who cast the deciding vote in 1974 that legalized abortion in New York state. That law was the basis for the Supreme Court decision, known as Roe v. Wade.
Women were finally able to receive excellent reproductive healthcare from qualified providers The law resulted in a dramatic decrease in women’s mortality from botched and illegal abortions and enabled women to get a full range of reproductive care.
At the time I was volunteering as a maternity and pediatric nurse at our local Planned Parenthood and became aware of how many women were seeking abortion services, which were still only available by a few physicians. My own OB/GYN was the medical director of the clinic. As we shared our observations, we decided that we needed to create abortion services at Planned Parenthood – and the first such clinic was opened in upstate New York. For the next 50 years, women and men assumed those services would be available despite the gradual restrictions that many states instituted.
Now in 2023 the Republican super-majority in the Legislature has passed a bill that outlaws most abortions after 12 weeks and makes it exceedingly difficult to obtain one before that time. It will cause most abortion clinics to close.
What does a draconian abortion ban mean for each of us, our children, grandchildren, and childbearing folks? Until now North Carolina has had the least restrictive abortion laws of any southwest state in terms of access to abortion and reproductive care, including for LGBTQA+. That all could change. For updated information go to: this link here.
We need to be informed about these changing laws and speak out in support of expanded access to care.