Supreme Court

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning Roe v Wade, denying that abortion is a constitutional right and leaving it up to the states to allow or ban. Jewish groups and organizations responded. Here are statements from those against the ruling and those in support of it.

Statement from the National Council of Jewish Women

Sheila Katz, CEO of NCJW, issued the following statement:

This decision by the Supreme Court is a moral failure. It will put lives at risk. By overturning 50 years of precedent, safe and vital abortion care is now virtually inaccessible to millions of people who need it. In the weeks and months ahead, we will see the devastating impact this ruling will have on human lives. 

This egregious decision is a direct violation of both our American values and our Jewish tradition. Reversing the protections of Roe defies logic, morality, compassion and the fundamental right of all Americans to practice their religious beliefs without interference from the government.

In the 13 states where abortion will become immediately illegal, millions of people will have to face the harsh truth that they no longer have control over their lives and their bodies. This decision will forever alter the lives of those who will be forced to remain pregnant, increasing the chances that they will face life-threatening medical complications, poverty and unemployment. And we know from existing data in states where abortion is already virtually inaccessible that this decision will disproportionately impact those who already face barriers to accessing health care, including women and particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, those with disabilities, young people and those working to make ends meet. 

Abortion bans place greater value on the life of the fetus than on the pregnant person, a violation of both Jewish law and tradition and of American religious liberty. Now, it seems only certain people are entitled to religious liberty, which renders the entire concept meaningless. 

“Today’s decision betrays this most cherished American value. The rights of American Jews and other people of faith who believe in access to abortion, who are the majority of people in this country, have been sacrificed to the overwhelming zeal of one small group that has turned the shield of religious freedom into a sword.

“National Council of Jewish Women advocates will not be deterred. We will continue to fight until everyone can make their own faith-informed decision about their bodies, lives and futures, regardless of who they are or where they live. Now is the time. Forced pregnancy is an explicit violation of our rights as Jews. Abortion access is and always will be a Jewish value, and we are determined to keep fighting, from the streets to the courts, to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need and the ability to make their own decisions for themselves and their futures.” 

Reform Movement Leaders Denounce the Supreme Court’s Decision 

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning a half century of judicial precedent established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Rabbi Marla Feldman, executive director of Women of Reform Judaism; Yolanda Savage-Narva, assistant vice president of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of the Union for Reform Judaism; and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism: 

Rabbi Marla Feldman: “We are outraged that the Supreme Court has stripped women and others who can become pregnant of the fundamental right to make essential health care decisions free of governmental interference. Abortion access is a critical component of reproductive health care. Pregnant individuals are capable of making ethical decisions based on their own beliefs and medical best interest without government officials imposing their personal religious views on others. As we navigate the catastrophic results of the Court’s decision, we will work to ensure that Congress and state legislatures do everything in their power to protect and improve access to abortion and our fundamental rights. We will not be silent as the Court tries to turn back the clock 50 years.” 

Yolanda Savage-Narva: “This decision, which is rooted in anti-Black racism, white supremacy and other systems of oppression, will have disastrous consequences. It disproportionately impacts those already facing discriminatory obstacles to health care and other human rights, including Black, Indigenous and other people of color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, undocumented people and low-income people — people in our Reform Jewish community and outside the Movement. For many, this reality is not new, and many have been navigating abysmal abortion access in states that have eroded this right for decades, even with Roe. We must come together to take sustained action to support those whose human dignity and fundamental rights are and will be violated and stripped away. As Jews, we are commanded to do so.” 

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner: “We vehemently condemn the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, which overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This decision is wrong, full stop. It gives the green light to abortion bans that will eliminate or severely restrict access in nearly half of U.S. states and threatens other fundamental rights, including access to contraception and the LGBTQ+ rights affirmed by Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges. Efforts to restrict abortion access also undermine the religious freedom of people who, as in the Jewish tradition, uphold abortion care as a medically necessary and righteous procedure. 

We are a Movement that includes people who have received abortion care, abortion providers, people who love someone who has had an abortion, and people who will one day need an abortion — all of whom are deeply impacted by this decision. I take to heart the words of our Movement’s clergy and lay leaders in communities nationwide who have shared how devastating this decision will be, including congregant and abortion provider Dr. Sara Imershein, MD, MPH, who said: ‘As a healer and an abortion provider I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision — but not at all surprised. Sadly, the poor and marginalized will suffer most from abortion restrictions — with greater poverty, forced childbirth and higher maternal mortality.’ 

And Rabbi Rachael Pass, who has spoken and written about her own abortion, who said: ‘It is imperative that Jews, and all people, have access to abortion in all places where we live. I know this professionally as a rabbi, and personally as a cis-woman who has received an abortion. 

‘Judaism permits and sometimes requires abortion in the case that the life and wellbeing of the pregnant person is endangered. Depriving trans and nonbinary individuals and women with uteruses in our country of access to abortion undermines the freedom of minority religions — like Judaism — upon which our country was built.’ 

“I stand with Dr. Imershein, Rabbi Pass and all who will be profoundly impacted by this decision.” 

Conservative Rabbis Strongly Condemn U.S. Supreme Court Decision 

“For over five decades, the Rabbinical Assembly has strongly and repeatedly affirmed the halachic necessity of access to abortion based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources and teshuvot — rabbinic responses — and fiercely opposed efforts that would limit access to abortion or stifle reproductive freedoms in the U.S. In response to legislative efforts that threatened reproductive freedom in 2021, the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, passed a Resolution on Right to Legal and Accessible Abortion in the United States. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn its previous landmark cases, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, effectively nullifying the Constitutional right to abortion for millions of Americans, the RA issued the following statement:

“The RA is outraged by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to end the Constitutional right to abortion and deny access to lifesaving medical procedures for millions of individuals in the U.S., in what will be regarded as one of the most extreme instances of governmental overreach in our lifetime.

“Many Americans now face a dire crisis. Many more face uncertainty. This is a dangerous time for all people who are capable of becoming pregnant, especially those in categories who have poorer maternal outcomes and particularly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people or those of lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For individuals living in rural areas or in states that will jump to further restrict abortion, this decision is truly life-threatening. For American Jews and those of other faiths, this decision is a restriction on our religious freedom. For people who fall into the intersections of all or most of the above, our personhood has been rejected by the highest court in our nation.

“The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly has repeatedly affirmed the right of a pregnant person to choose an abortion in cases where ‘continuation of a pregnancy might cause severe physical or psychological harm, or where the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.’ This position is based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources, which compel us to cherish the sanctity of life, including the potential of life during pregnancy, and does not indicate that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but rather with birth as indicated by Exodus 21:22-23.

“Based on our understanding of Jewish tradition and religious freedom, The RA supports the right to full access for all those who need abortions to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare and strongly opposes all efforts by governmental, private entities, or individuals to limit or dismantle such access. Denying individuals access to the complete spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, abortion-inducing devices and medications, and abortions, among others, on religious grounds, deprives those who need medical care of their Constitutional right to religious freedom. Imposing civil and criminal consequences for clergy assisting their constituents as guided by halachah deprives our members of a fundamental element of clerical practice incompatible with Jewish values.

“There will continue to be legislative battles in the United States on both the federal and state levels that pose existential threats to reproductive freedom, especially so-called ‘heartbeat’ bills, which violate the foundational principle of separation of church and state. The Rabbinical Assembly emphatically opposes all such laws and legislative or executive moves and instead calls on members of Congress to decisively codify Roe v. Wade into law to enshrine the right to health, freedom and dignity for all Americans.”

Hadassah Statement in Response to Supreme Court Decision 

Hadassah president Rhoda Smolow and CEO Naomi Adler today made the following statement:                                                                       

“The Supreme Court’s decision is an attack on American women and their rights to health care, privacy and autonomy. Without federal protection for their rights, women across the country could now be barred from making their own health decisions under a patchwork of inconsistent state laws. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, reaffirms its unwavering support for full and complete access to reproductive health services and the right to make decisions based on each woman’s religious, moral and ethical values. Hadassah will continue to fight for federal and state legislation affirming and protecting reproductive rights.”

Hillel International Statement on Supreme Court’s Decision on Abortion

Hillel International, the world’s largest and most inclusive community serving Jewish students at more than 850 colleges and universities, issued the following statement: 

“Today is a painful and distressing day for many Americans and Jewish students across the country who believe that each American should have the right to make personal decisions about pregnancy and abortion in a way that is informed by their own beliefs, values and needs. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion is at odds with Jewish law and practice, which prioritizes the life of the pregnant person. The decision will jeopardize the well-being of our students and professionals, particularly those of limited economic means and those in states where legal abortion will now be unavailable. As the largest global organization supporting Jewish students, today we are focused on doing just that: supporting students and creating a safe and caring environment both for them and for the Hillel professionals who serve them. 

“Our tradition teaches that our most sacred obligation is the preservation of human life, and we’re dismayed that this ruling will make it more challenging to fulfill that promise for the students, professionals and community members we serve. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to focus on providing resources to our students and professionals to support their health and wellbeing, especially those in states where the ruling has an immediate impact.” 

The Workers Circle Statement in Response to the SCOTUS decision 

“The Workers Circle expresses outrage at the reprehensible decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization handed down by the Supreme Court. Six out of nine judges, each appointed for their hostility to constitutional rights — particularly abortion rights — struck a blow to democracy by overturning the protection Roe v. Wade has guaranteed for nearly 50 years. The right to bodily autonomy is foundational to democracy and human rights. Today’s decision eliminates the constitutional protection of that right. This opinion will hurt many millions — disproportionately impacting low-income Americans — and it is a setback in our fight for freedom. We pledge to continue to fight for a democracy that guarantees equality, rights and dignity for all.

“As we all process this decision, I urge you to find strength and inspiration from our proud Jewish tradition of resistance and resilience. Our ancestors faced and stood up to similar attacks on their rights and to their safety. 

“Today, the fight is in our hands. There is only one way to respond to the ongoing erosion of everyone’s civil liberties and human rights, and that is to fight for the freedoms that brought our ancestors here.” 

Statement of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, said:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is reprehensible and egregious. The right to choose whether to have an abortion is not only a matter of reproductive freedom — it’s a matter of economic justice. Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan wisely point out in the dissent that ‘above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision.

“Grounded in our Jewish values, we know that all people are B’tselem Elohim, created in the image of God. This includes women, girls and other pregnant people, who, through today’s decision, have lost autonomy over their bodies and their lives. 

“No one who has been affected by the war on women — perpetrated by fundamentalist conservatives — is surprised to see this happen. But we are no less horrified, outraged and resolved to fight for what we know is right at all levels of government.”

Agudath Israel of America Statement on the SCOTUS Decision

“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Agudath Israel of America welcomes this historic development.

“Agudath Israel has long been on record as opposing Roe v. Wade’s legalization of abortion on demand. Informed by the teaching of Jewish law that fetal life is entitled to significant protection, with termination of pregnancy authorized only under certain extraordinary circumstances, we are deeply troubled by the staggering number of pregnancies in the United States that end in abortion.

“We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on the broader American society. We are of the view, however, that society, through its laws, should promote a social ethic that affirms the supreme value of life. Allowing abortion on demand, in contrast, promotes a social ethic that devalues life.

“To be sure, there are certain extraordinary circumstances where our faith teaches that a woman should terminate her pregnancy. Agudath Israel fully supports her right to abortion in such situations, both as a matter of constitutional free exercise and moral principle. However, it must be reiterated that these cases are indeed extraordinary, rare exceptions to the rule that fetal life is entitled to protection.

“We pray that today’s ruling will inspire all Americans to appreciate the moral magnitude of the abortion issue and to embrace a culture that celebrates life.”

The Coalition for Jewish Values Statement

“Judaism regards all human life as sacred, including when a fetus is yet to be born. Jewish law permits abortion only in truly extraordinary circumstances. This does not describe the situation in America today, where the overwhelming majority of abortions are done as an elective procedure.

“The dialogue needs to change: if everything is a human right, then, in the end, nothing remains worthy of special protection. We must return to a society that cherishes human rights and human life.”

Statement by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America 

The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) issued the following statement:

“In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court issuing its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, we reiterate the approach we articulated when a draft ruling in this case was leaked to the media last month. 

“The Orthodox Union is unable to either mourn or celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. We cannot support absolute bans on abortion — at any time point in a pregnancy — that would not allow access to abortion in life-saving situations. Similarly, we cannot support legislation that does not limit abortion to situations in which medical (including mental health) professionals affirm that carrying the pregnancy to term poses real risk to the life of the mother.

“As people of faith, we see life as a precious gift granted to us and maintained within us by God. Jewish law places paramount value on choosing life and mandates — not as a right but as a responsibility — safeguarding our own lives and the lives of others by behaving in a healthy and secure manner, doing everything in our power to save lives and refraining from endangering others. This concern for even potential life extends to the unborn fetus and to the terminally ill.

“The ‘right to choose’ (as well as the ‘right to die’) are thus completely at odds with our religious and halachic values. Legislation and court rulings that enshrine such rights concern us deeply on a societal level.

“Yet, that same mandate to preserve life requires us to be concerned for the life of the mother. Jewish law prioritizes the life of the pregnant mother over the life of the fetus such that where the pregnancy critically endangers the physical health or mental health of the mother, an abortion may be authorized, if not mandated, by Halachah and should be available to all women irrespective of their economic status. 

“Legislation and court rulings, federally or in any state, that absolutely ban abortion without regard for the health of the mother would literally limit our ability to live our lives in accordance with our responsibility to preserve life.

“The extreme polarization around and politicization of the abortion issue does not bode well for a much-needed nuanced result. Human life — the value of everyone created in the Divine Image —is far too important.” 

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