pro-choice is pro-life

Her Body, Her Choice: The Fight Continues

By Elise Sugarman

On June 11, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553). This bill places a federal ban on abortions 20 weeks post-fertilization and was passed in the House in May by a vote of 242-184. In the Senate, Senator Graham’s bill currently has 45 co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With his support, it is possible this bill could be put on the legislative calendar.  Although the composition and rules of the Senate make it unlikely, even if the bill does pass the second chamber, it faces the threat of a veto from President Obama.

Courts around the country have ruled that similar legislation is unconstitutional. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Arizona abortion ban in 2013, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, affirming the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court forbid states from favoring the fetus’ interests over the pregnant woman’s health until the fetus is “viable” in the third trimester (between the 24th and 28th weeks). The Ninth Circuit Court most recently declared an Idaho abortion law unconstitutional as Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the majority opinion that Idaho’s law, “‘places an arbitrary time limit on when women can obtain abortions.”

The public does not have a comprehensive understanding of late-term abortions because the media and politicians discuss the topic from a place of fear. Due to this confusion, many of the public are unaware of the fact that only 1% of total abortions occur after 20 weeks. This statistic remains so low because late-term abortion procedures are expensive and complex, making them difficult to receive. Many of the late-term abortions that occur after 20 weeks because parents learn of a fetus’ birth defects around 20 weeks. The parents usually wanted this child, but must consider their quality of life; they may not have the finances to afford the medical bills for a sick child and thus feel an incredible loss when making this decision. Furthermore, some women may not have been aware of their pregnancy until 20 weeks as they did not experience the pregnancy symptoms until it was too late. These reasons demonstrate why a federal 20-week abortion ban is arbitrary and cannot pass.

Although the Reform Movement believes that the unborn fetus is precious and should be protected, Judaism places a higher value on existing life than potential life. Mishnah Ohaloth 7:6 forbids women from sacrificing their own life, mental health, and/or self-esteem for a fetus.

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promises to bring this bill to the floor for a vote. Take action today to urge your Senators to vote against S. 1553, and by doing so ensure that women continue to receive the access to health care that they deserve!

Learn more about the RAC’s work on reproductive rights here.

Elise Sugarman headshot


Elise Sugarman is a rising junior at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. She is a 2015 Machon Kaplan participant, and is interning at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.




Featured image courtesy of the Atlantic.

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Machon Kaplan Participant

About Machon Kaplan Participant

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

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