“The Big Jewcy: Steph Herold – Reproductive Rights Activist” by Emily Goldsher

Reference: Jewcy

“I have the privilege of not having to wrestle each day with dissonance between my faith and the cause that drives my life.”

As a Jewish reproductive rights activist, do you take comfort in Judaism’s relatively reasonable stance toward abortion?  The Mishnah clearly states that a woman’s life is prioritized over a fetus, and even an Orthodox person would tell you that abortion is considered mandatory if it means saving the mother.  A rabbinic dispensation for an abortion is easily acquired if the situation qualifies as Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life) and the law can be interpreted to include mental anguish as well as physical.  All of this makes Judaism fairly progressive when it comes to the issue of abortion.

To be completely honest, I don’t think about Judaism and abortion very often, and I know that’s a luxury. I have the privilege of not having to wrestle each day with dissonance between my faith and the cause that drives my life. This doesn’t let Judaism off the hook, though. In Israel, to my understanding, if you can’t afford to pay for an abortion with your own money, you have to go before a “termination committee” who has to approve your reasons for having an abortion. It is lucky that women have the option of getting public funding for their procedures (and the termination committee rarely turns someone down), but to have to go in front of a committee and have your reason for an abortion approved is humiliating at best. Wealthy women can bypass this system if they have enough money to pay for an abortion at a private clinic, leaving low income women at the mercy of strangers on a committee.

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Steph Herold is the founder of IAmDrTiller.com.