The National Council of Jewish Women meet with legislators to discuss legislation surrounding abortion in the state of Michigan.

Featured photo via NCJW Facebook

So far this year, eight states have passed laws severely limiting abortion rights in an attempt to lay the groundwork to have Roe v. Wade overturned. Alabama has just passed the most restrictive law that makes performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy. Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri and Louisana have passed laws prohibiting abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy, often before many women know they are pregnant.

These laws are not in effect yet and will probably be blocked while they are challenged in courts, but the threat to a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions is very real.

Recently, a delegation of our members from National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan met with many Michigan legislators and/or their staff about repealing 1931 Michigan laws that ban abortion. The Roe decision has mothballed the 1931 laws, but if Roe is overturned, women’s reproductive healthcare would revert to standards established nearly 100 years ago.

NCJW believes that every woman should have the right to make personal decisions about her body, health and future; that, consistent with the value kavod ha bri’ot (respect and dignity for all human beings), all women should have equal access to safe and legal health care; and that bans on abortion coverage interfere with a woman’s moral autonomy and her power to make personal decisions based on her own moral or religious beliefs. We believe it is unjust for lawmakers to enshrine one religious view into law in order to restrict abortion access. Doing so erodes our nation’s basic principle of religious liberty.

Unlike some faith traditions, which view abortion as murder, Jewish law does not because the fetus is not recognized as a “life” or a “person” with independent rights. The fetus does not have the same legal status as the mother who is a full-fledged, autonomous human being. It has no identity of its own since it is dependent on the body of the woman until most of the body emerges from her womb.

This is why Jewish sources explicitly indicate that if the continuation of a pregnancy might imperil the life or health of a woman, abortion is not only permitted but required. The interests of the woman always come before the fetus. According to some contemporary Jewish sources, health includes psychological health as well as physical health.

A recent CBS News poll indicated that 67 percent of Americans want to keep Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. Michigan’s 2018 midterm election placed three pro-choice women at the top of our state government, indicating that a majority of our state’s electorate believes in a woman’s right to decide for herself. However, Michigan’s Republican-dominated legislature appears to want to turn back the clock to the “old days” of secrecy, shame and illegal abortions.

We feel strongly that women have the right to make personal decisions about their bodies, their health and their futures. If you agree, contact your state representative and state senator to register your support to repeal the 1931 laws banning abortion (House Bills: 4113-4116; Senate Bills: 50-52). To find your state legislators, go to house.mi.gov/MHRPublic/frmFindARep.aspx (representatives) and senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html (senators). These calls could be among the most important you have ever made.

You can join with us in our efforts to protect women’s reproductive rights by calling the NCJW office at (248) 355-3300, ext. 0.

Irma Glaser and Cathy Cantor are NCJW Michigan state policy advocates.

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