#URJBiennial: A Year of War Waged on Reproductive Rights

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism LogoThroughout the 2011 URJ Biennial, participants have had the opportunity to attend special legislative briefings by the RAC Eisendrath Legislative Assistants. Known as “RAC Rundowns,” these briefings have been taking place at “Tzedek Central,” the RAC’s on-site hub for social justice. These RAC Rundowns include the most up-to-date information on key legislative issues and what you can do to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill. Today, we will begin posting six of these RAC Rundowns on RACblog for those of you who are participating virtually and for those of you on-site with us at Biennial who want a recap of the briefing.

This year, we’ve been engaged in a war trying to defend reproductive rights in America; 2011 has seen a sharp increase of attacks on access to abortion services. A report by the Guttmacher Institute shows us how stark this battleground has become: In the first six months of 2011 alone, states enacted 80 new laws restricting abortion services (three times the number enacted in 2010). Also in 2011, states attempted to limit access to mifepristone (the abortion pill for very early pregnancies), and five states banned the use of teleconferencing for counseling and prescribing abortion medication to those in places, particularly distant rural areas, where this service was previously inaccessible.

As progressive Jews, we must make our voices loud and clear in the conversation about access to abortion care. While it often feels as though the Religious Right has a monopoly on the faith-based perspective on reproductive rights, this doesn’t need to be the case. As Jews, we clearly derive our pro-choice philosophies from Biblical writings. In the Mishnah we read, “If a woman’s labor becomes life threatening, the one to be born is dismembered in her abdomen…for her life comes before the life of the fetus.” From this and other Talmudic passages we learn that, while all life is sacred, the life of a mother has more value than the life of an unborn fetus. Additionally, when considering the health of the mother, we consider her physical, spiritual and emotional health – her body and her nefesh (soul). Abortion is a deeply personal issue, and the decision of when life begins is often a religious one. Women are capable of being moral decision-makers, and there is no role for government regulation in this decision.

Whether in state legislation (like the Heartbeat Bill in Ohio or the Personhood Amendment in Mississippi), in federal legislation (like the Protect Life Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives and is currently being considered in the Senate), or in considering the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is frighteningly unsympathetic to Roe v. Wade, we are  constantly fighting for the right to have control over the health of our bodies and our families.

Stay engaged by following currentUnion for Reform Judaism Logo and future legislation, and continue to check back on RACblog as we mobilize our congregations to defend access to abortion services nation-wide.

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Katharine Nasielski

About Katharine Nasielski

Katharine Burd Nasielski is the Communications Associate at the RAC and was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant from 2011-2012. She graduated in 2011 from Northwestern University and is originally from Philadelphia, PA where she is a member of Society Hill Synagogue.


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