Reproductive rights news from the states is not often optimistic, but supporters of a woman’s right to choose have reason to rejoice today. Federal Judge Daniel Hovland struck down a North Dakota law that banned abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat,which can be as early as six weeks of gestation, often before a woman discovers she is pregnant. This law would come completely limit a woman’s ability to access an abortion, depriving her of choice.
By Ilyse Hogue
This article is cross-posted with Zeek, a catalyst for conversations about the Jewish tomorrow.
I remember clearly the day that my then-boyfriend now-husband and I implemented our “no conference calls on road trips” rule. We’re often on the road between our home in DC and New York or to my mother-in-law’s home on the Delaware coast. While this might seem like an obvious rule to some in order to maximize quality time together, our concerns were much more mundane. If we were both on the phone at the same time, we couldn’t hear. And we couldn’t agree on whose call was more important, so we decided no one could be on the phone. Yes, our relationship had come to closely approximate a pair of five year olds who could not share a toy.
This blog post is adapted from an Advocacy Update sent by Women of Reform Judaism on March 27, 2014. For more information about the background of these cases, check out this blog post.
Following oral argument on Tuesday morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, eyes are now turning to the end of June when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its ruling. Although much of the deliberating and deciding goes on behind closed doors, oral argument is an important opportunity to gauge what the justices are considering when looking at the case.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released a statement, noting that:
A version of this blog originally appeared at WRJblog on March 19, 2014. Check back here for more updates on Hobby Lobby after oral arguments this afternoon. For immediate updates, be sure to check out SCOTUSblog.com.
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobbyand Conestoga v. Sebelius. These cases have been getting a fair amount of coverage in the press and attention in the advocacy community over the past few weeks. If you are new to these cases, or if you’re excited (like me) to see what will happen before the nine justices on March 25th, here’s a rundown of the basic arguments, the stakes, the position of the Reform Movement, and some suggestions for further reading in anticipation of oral argument.
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the story to understand the questions before the Court.
In a recent conversation about raising families, I recounted the numerous times that I have been asked, often in an accusatory tone, why I have “only” two children. I guess because I am an Orthodox woman, people think this is an area into which they are allowed to pry. It is a question that I find incredibly personal, and deeply offensive – especially when it is followed with an admonishment that I am falling down on my religious duties by not abiding by the Biblical imperative “to be fruitful and multiply.” Yet one has to look no further than the Four Matriarchs – who no doubt did not have access to any modern birth control techniques – to see that the notion of large families (certainly not from one mother) is not always reflected in our history, even before hormone-based pills, patches or IUDs. Indeed, our Scripture describes to us that Sarah struggled with infertility until the age of 90, when she birthed Isaac. Rebecca had a pair of twin boys, Esau and Jacob – and then no more. Leah, the most fecund, had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and a daughter, Dinah. And finally, Rachel gave birth to Joseph, and then after a number of years, had Benjamin, whose birth caused her death.
Following the Guttmacher Institute’s report earlier this year indicating that more restrictive anti-choice bills were passed in the states between 2011-2013 (205 laws, to be exact) than the preceding ten years (189 laws), our eyes turned to 2014 with hope that the momentum would slow and such laws would cease to be considered. Unfortunately, 2014 is not boding well for choice in the states – at least so far. Earlier this week, Georgia and Alabama passed very restrictive laws that will significantly limit a woman’s access to abortion services.
The Georgia Senate passed a law banning all insurers – private insurers – from covering abortion services on health care plans, reducing the right to choose to a woman’s ability to pay for an abortion out of pocket. This bill, SB 98, has no exceptions for rape or incest, and a limited exception for life of the mother.
The Alabama House passed a package of four anti-choice laws, the most controversial of which was a ban on abortion after a detectable fetal heartbeat. This law, like the one from Georgia, has no exceptions for rape or incest. A heartbeat is detectable at five or six weeks of gestation, often before many women know they are pregnant. This bill, if passed by the Alabama Senate, would in essence ban abortion in the state.
This Shabbat, as we slow down, disconnect and enjoy the day of rest with family and friends, we also have the opportunity to spend some time to reflect on the status of women at home and abroad.
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been celebrated on March 8th for nearly 40 years. This date, designated by the United Nations, falls during Women’s History Month; taken together, these dates remind us to pause and take stock.