Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender, Torah

Abortion Access is a Jewish Issue

This afternoon, The Guttmacher Institute released the results of a study that should frighten all of us. “Predicted changes in abortion access and incidence in a post-Roe world,” an analysis by Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College and collaborators from the Guttmacher Institute and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), revealed that the average woman in 2019 (ages 15-44) lives 25 miles from the nearest clinic providing abortion care. If Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States, is overturned (and right now, it’s looking really bad for Roe), 100,000 residents in the Southern and Midwestern United States would be unable to access an abortion. 

If you’ve been paying attention to news, you know that states like Alabama and Ohio are seeking to eliminate abortion access. Other states, like South Dakota, have only one abortion clinic in the entire state, making it basically impossible to get to that clinic if you happen to live far away, require childcare, time off from work, and lodging. Laws restricting abortion, like waiting periods, make getting an abortion even more complicated, and effectively render the right to abortion as null and void: if you can’t actually obtain an abortion when you seek it, Roe is just a theoretical. 

At the end of July, USA Today published a piece on Jewish reactions to the co-optation of Old Testament language to justify anti-abortion legislation. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is quoted in the article, and the work of the National Council of Jewish Women is referenced. But where is everyone else? Where are Jewish communities in the fight for reproductive justice? I’m not talking about entities like Lilith, who has been publishing work on the urgency of access to abortion for years, or individuals involved in groups like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Exhale, and Faith Aloud. I’m talking about a concerted effort by Jewish communities – synagogues, Hillels, etc, to confront the attack on reproductive justice, understanding that bodily autonomy is not a singular, disconnected issue. We can fight to close the camps on the US/Mexico border AND for access to abortion. Immigrant justice is a reproductive justice issue.

 If that’s not compelling to you, consider this: Jews get abortions. Jews need financial help accessing abortion. (If you think this isn’t true because all Jews have access to wealth, please take the necessary time and space to work that enormous falsehood out, and then return to the world once you’ve dealt with it.) The fact the abortion rights are essentially being dissolved by Christian hegemony should worry you, and Jews everywhere, enough to take action. 

Some things you can do: 

Learn about abortion stigma, a set of negative and false beliefs about abortion, such as the idea that abortion is dangerous, “good” people don’t get abortions, abortion ruins one’s fertility, causes cancer, etc. What stigmatizing things about abortion do you and those around you believe? 

Act. Find like-minded folks in your Jewish communities and combine your energy. You can call elected officials, volunteer as a clinic escort, write op-eds, volunteer to do in-take at abortion funds, or join a Bowlathon team to raise money for abortion funds. (For more information on these last two things, check out the National Network of Abortion Funds.) 

Speak up. Abortion access is a Jewish issue. People in Jewish communities have had abortions, and will have abortions, and when we are silent about the attack on bodily autonom, we send the message that they, and by extension, people who can get pregnant, are invisible and inconsequential. We can and should do this work as Jews. If you want your synagogue, Hillel, chavurah, etc, to be involved in working for reproductive justice, use your voice. 

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