Hundreds of marchers walked from Temple Shir Shalom to demonstrate their support for reproductive rights.
Hundreds of marchers walked from Temple Shir Shalom to demonstrate their support for reproductive rights. (Courtesy of Melissa Kahn)

Two temples join protest against Texas anti-abortion law.

There is a good chance Roe v Wade may be overturned as early as December. That was the startling message abortion rights activists, religious leaders and Michigan state government officials relayed to 400 marchers at a West Bloomfield Women’s March on Oct. 2 at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield and a short march up and down Orchard Lake Road.

The march was one of 20 or so in Michigan and 620 around the country organized in response to the highly restrictive Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks — before most women know they are pregnant — and ahead of the Dec. 1 U.S. Supreme Court session that will examine a Mississippi ruling that will attempt to ban abortion at 15 weeks before the conservative 6-3 court. 

Speakers encouraged attendees to stay active and vigilant and keep pressure on elected officials at the state and federal levels to codify the historic 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

Marchers met before the walk to make signs they carried.
Marchers met before the walk to make signs they carried. Courtesy of Melissa Kahn

Mags Rose, an organizer with Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s Oakland University chapter, said though she is just 18 years old, she is terrified that she may come into adulthood at a time when reproductive rights may be taken away from her and millions of others. 

“What happened in Texas is unconstitutional,” she said. “In Texas, women will now be forced to carry a baby that they may not be ready for or want, and the state is making that decision for them. Michigan is far off from Texas but not far enough.

“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, would Michigan be right there with Texas as one of the states that bans safe, legal abortion after six weeks?” 

Rose said that abortions will still take place even after they are made illegal. 

“Why not make it safe?” she asked the crowd. “Why not prevent deaths that come with non-medical abortion techniques, why not stand with Planned Parenthood and the Woman’s March in their values and the idea that everyone should have the right to decide what happens to their body?” 

Margo Lazar of West Bloomfield with her daughters Brooke and Shaina
Margo Lazar of West Bloomfield with her daughters Brooke and Shaina Courtesy of Melissa Kahn
Temples Rally

Shir Shalom member Melissa Kahn, 52, of Bloomfield Hills, her twin 14-year-old daughters Holland and Eva, and son Max, 16, organized the march, which was hosted by Temple Shir Shalom. Kahn solicited the participation of Temple Israel, the Birmingham Unitarian Church and Planned Parenthood.

Kahn remembers the power of marching for women’s reproductive rights in Washington, D.C., in 1990.

“When I first heard about these marches happening across the country, I wanted to gather like-minded people right here in West Bloomfield,” Kahn said. “Because this legislation passed in Texas, there are going to be so many other states, including Michigan, that will pass copycat laws to take away a woman’s right to get an abortion before most people know they are pregnant, with no exceptions to victims of rape or incest. 

“My daughters and son were a major motivation for me to organize this march. It shows them there is something they can do to make a change.”

Volunteers from Moms Demand Action.
Volunteers from Moms Demand Action. Courtesy of Melissa Kahn
Decades-Long Fight

Listening to the speakers, past NCJW President Suzanne Simon, 79, of Birmingham, remembers marching for women’s reproductive rights up and down Greenfield and Northland when she was in her 20s and thinks it is “terrible” that she and other NCJW members must march once again to fight for these rights, nearly 60 years later. 

“NCJW has for decades lobbied for women’s rights and programming for women and children,” Simon said. “This is about healthcare. We were instrumental as an organization in helping to pass a law to make sure that safe abortions could be available to women. And now, it seems we are going back to square one.” 

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-13th District) said that in 2019, she attended a Planned Parenthood event in Lansing, where Attorney General Dana Nessel stood up and said “with confidence” that Roe v Wade would soon be overturned. Though McMorrow said her comments were met by criticisms of fear mongering, the Texas law gave weight to Nessel’s prediction. 

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow addresses the crowd.
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow addresses the crowd. Stacy Gittleman

“Back then, people thought there would be no way for Roe v Wade to fall, but here we are,” McMorrow said. “We cannot expect that marches and rallies are going to stop what is coming. 

“What we have seen in Texas proves that the Supreme Court [and state-level courts] and state legislatures are not going to protect us.”

McMorrow said she was “horrified” at the Supreme Court’s stance toward the Texas law that enables bounty hunters to turn in to the state anyone who affiliates with helping a woman get an abortion for a possible $10,000 reward.

“That ruling turns women and girls into pariahs. Who is going to take the risk of being the Uber driver who drives somebody to an appointment if they may be sued for $10,000 to be paid to anybody who just wants to make a quick buck by demonizing women and girls? And the Supreme Court stood by and allowed it.”

The state senator warned once Roe is overturned, Michigan may reenact Act 328 of 1931, a state law that illegalizes not only abortion but teaching about abortion, handing out information about abortion and could be interpreted to ban information and access to contraception. She reminded the attendees, many of them too young to remember, that there was a time when bleach and cleaner products were marketed to women as a way to make a concoction to end a pregnancy. 

Rabbi Marla Hornsten
Rabbi Marla Hornsten

“Those are the days we could slip back to. Outlawing abortion does not eliminate abortion, it just puts women and girls back into a desperate situation, to a place where they will not have a choice of when and if they want to get pregnant.”

Though the march was on Shabbat, Rabbi Marla Hornsten of Temple Israel said being present for such an important issue was in the spirit of Shabbat, a day that Jews set aside to envision and pray for a world to come that is more just and caring. 

“It is very important for the Jewish community to have had a presence here today to support women’s rights, choice and equality,” said Hornsten as she walked along the march route. 

“Justice is a crucial part of Judaism. And there is absolutely nothing in the new Texas ruling that is supported by Judaism.” 

Marching along Orchard Lake Road.
Marching along Orchard Lake Road. Stacy Gittleman

Reform Jewish Movement’s Joint Statement 

We denounce, in the strongest terms, the law that went into effect in Texas, effectively making abortion care illegal in that state. In the most insidious state abortion restriction adopted to date, this Texas law makes abortion illegal as early as six weeks, before many are even aware that they are pregnant. The law is manipulatively designed to thwart courts’ ability to protect reproductive freedom, prohibiting state officials from enforcing the law but empowering any Texan to sue any person — an abortion provider, a counselor, a member of the clergy, a clinic worker, even a driver who delivers a person to a clinic, to name a few examples — who assists in accessing abortion care. For this reason, many Texas clinics are now unable to provide abortion care at all, as they are understandably unwilling to place their workers at intolerable risk from potentially ruinous lawsuits enabled by this Texas law.

We are concerned about individuals who cannot afford to travel long distances to secure abortion care in neighboring states. We are also deeply concerned about Jews who will be unable to pursue an abortion in keeping with Jewish law, which mandates abortion when necessary to preserve the pregnant person’s well-being. With respect to Judaism’s own limited approval of abortion: “as we would not impose the historic position of Jewish teaching upon individuals nor legislate it as normative for society at large, so we would not wish the position of any other group imposed upon the Jewish community or the general population.”

We also ground ourselves in kavod habriyot — the sacred obligation to provide medical care.

We will continue to work to overturn this law, prevent similar laws from being adopted in other states, and affirm the right of every person to make their own reproductive health decisions.

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Lewis Kamrass, president

Rabbi Hara E. Person, chief executive

Union for Reform Judaism

Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, chair

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com