More than 45 years after Roe v. Wade was decided in the Supreme Court, abortion legislation is becoming the focus of fierce political debate. The legislation runs the full gamut from Missouri which is currently considering becoming the first state without any abortion clinics to other states which are now considering legalizing abortions well into the third trimester. For many people, the guiding principle for their espoused political agenda is rooted in their religious (or anti-religious) belief, raising the possibility that with a shared Biblical basis, Jews and Christians could join forces.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, a highly-respected authority on Halacha (Torah law), emphasized that it would be inaccurate to make any general statements concerning how Jewish law views abortion.
“This is a highly complex issue and people should consult with a competent rabbinic authority,” Rabbi Schwartz told Breaking Israel News. He noted that elective abortion was not described in the Bible but Jewish law permits abortion when the mother’s life or health are endangered. This differs from the Christian perspective in which the fetus is considered a life from the moment of conception.
“The Jewish perspective is not leniency based on a fetus’ lesser status,” Rabbi Schwartz explained. “According to Halacha, someone who performs an abortion is committing murder and should be judged as such.”
“This is also true for non-Jews since the prohibition against murder is one of the seven Noahide laws incumbent upon all of mankind,” Rabbi Schwartz explained. “With this in common regarding this issue, not only can Jews and non-Jews stand together but we must stand together. The fight against abortion transcends religion, transcends politics, and cuts to the essence of what it means to be a human.”
Rabbi Schwartz described what he considered the basis of the political debate: a rebellion against the Creator.
“God gave us the ability and the desire to reproduce in order to continue the human race, to continue his act of creation,” Rabbi Schwartz said. “This is the source of all our blessings. This was the first commandment God gave to Man so this is where the rebellion begins.”
The rabbi noted that even though abortions were not performed in ancient times, the precedent is clear.
“Idolators would have wanton relations, placing their lust above God and nature,” he explained. “And they would sacrifice their unwanted children to idols.”
“Attacking the fetus in the womb is to attack God directly,” Rabb Schwartz said. “Abortion is an attempt to overthrow God and to erase the Bible. To enforce abortions by law is to return mankind to barbarism, to its condition before Mount Sinai.”
A differing opinion was expressed by Dr. Eli Schussheim, a highly regarded Israeli surgeon. He established EFRAT-C.R.I.B in 1977 when abortion became legal in Israel. It was reported in 2011 that approximately 40,000 abortions were performed annually in Israel. Since its inception, the organization has assisted over 70,000 women to choose birth over abortion.
Israel has relatively liberal laws permitting abortion but D. Schussheim has opposed any legislation that may change that situation. He chooses to approach the issue of abortion as a medical professional.
“I am a physician and I know that every case needs an evaluation,” Dr. Schussheim told Breaking Israel News. “In the end, the woman is the patient and she decides what treatment she prefers. It is the doctor’s job to present the facts. It is impossible to educate or change behavior through legislation. That is not the purpose of laws.”
“The main reason for choosing abortion is financial,” Dr. Schussheim explained. “I would not tell a woman that finances are not a problem and she should not choose abortion. Instead, I come to solve that problem for her. We provide financial support and allow her to decide.”
“Of course, the real choice is not to become pregnant if you do not want a child,” he explained. “From a strictly medical standpoint, it is preferable that she not terminate the pregnancy. In my four decades of experience as a physician, I have never encountered a woman who regretted having a baby. In contrast to this, almost every woman who has had an abortion deeply regrets her decision.”
“Surgery leaves a scar on the outside but leaves the woman spiritually whole. Abortion does not leave a physical scar but it does leave an emotional scar. Abortion is a medical decision and for the sake of the woman, it should not be turned into a political issue: not for and not against.”