Led by the three people appointed by the far-right Donald Trump, the Supreme Court is on the verge of gutting the established law of Roe v. Wade, denying American women the freedom to make their own reproductive choices. Such a decision will fall into disgrace because it is the first time that the court has withdrawn a fundamental right from more than half of the citizens of our country.
Following the decision expected in 2022, many states, including Idaho, will either severely restrict or ban abortion altogether.
While many religious conservatives will rejoice in this outcome, it will actually profoundly threaten a value they otherwise claim to cherish: religious freedom. The same groups that ardently defend the baker who refuses to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple totally ignore that for thousands of women their choice is no less a matter of faith, with a far greater impact.
To deny these women (and families) who believe in the right to abortion the freedom to act in accordance with their own conscience and their sacred traditions is a gross violation of the spirit of the Bill of Rights.
There are, of course, many people whose religious beliefs lead them to oppose abortion, often because of their insistence that human life begins at conception. This is all very well. They are entirely free to have as many babies as they want, and also to peacefully use moral persuasion to try to convince others to do the same. But that freedom ends when they ask the government to impose their beliefs and practices on others, who base their own reproductive choices on different sacred understandings and beliefs.
In my Jewish tradition, an embryo is not a human being; it remains one potential life until birth in this world. During pregnancy, the well-being of the mother therefore always takes precedence over that of the unborn fetus. Jews can and do differ on our attitudes towards abortion – just as we tend to respectfully disagree with one another on almost everything. But none of our sacred texts, including the Hebrew Bible, considers abortion to be murder.
This is why the vast majority of American Jews are in favor of abortion – and whatever our personal preferences, we do not seek to forcefully impose them on others.
In this, we are not alone. Countless places of worship espouse similar positions based on deep religious beliefs. We adhere to a system of family values in which every child born is desired and loved by those who freely decide to bring new life into this world.
We too base our political work on an ethic that comes from God. We, too, value life – and that value compels us to respect the lives and real decisions of women who face difficult reproductive choices.
The time has come for the majority of faithful who support the right to abortion to make our voices heard. We can no longer afford to let the religious right dominate public discourse. We must speak proudly of our own religious traditions, proclaiming that the moral choices that arise from an unwanted pregnancy are best made by the woman, in consultation with her loved ones, her medical advisers, the teachings of her faith community and her God – rather than the government.
We owe it to ourselves, to our wives, to our sisters and to our daughters – and to the Saint.
Dan Fink is the rabbi of the Ahavath Beth Israel congregation.
Idaho Statesman’s weekly Faith Column features a rotation of writers of different faiths and perspectives.