A Jew, a Unitarian Universalist and a Catholic answer questions about abortion. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but in fact, is an apt summary of a briefing for Capitol Hill staffers held earlier this week where RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser spoke. The briefing was entitled “Faith Support for Reproductive Health and Justice,” and featured speakers from RAC partners Catholics for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Unitarian Universalist Association. Leaders from all of these communities spoke to recently hired Congressional office staff about ways in which the progressive faith community can participate in reproductive justice advocacy efforts, and why we – as people of faith – believe so strongly in a woman’s ability to make choices about her own body.
One week out, it seems like it’s an appropriate time to mention that there were no articles on the RAC blog this year about Valentine’s Day. Maybe that’s because there is some contention over the holiday’s Christian roots and whether or not that makes it an appropriate holiday for Jews to celebrate. Or maybe it’s because between the recent Boy Scout controversy, Jewish Disability Awareness Month, the State of the Union and Israeli elections there were just too many “fresh updates” to squeeze it all in!
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released an updated version of their regulations regarding contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This is an issue we’ve spoken about before, and we will continue to make our voice heard until the regulations are complete.
For someone in her early 20s, forty years ago feels like a different era. After all, it was a time before cell phones, before laptops, before Twitter and Facebook. Did such a world even exist, I sometimes find myself wondering?
Apparently, I’m not alone in my lack of concern for or even knowledge of the world of the 1970s. A recent poll found that among those under the age of 30, only 44% know that Roe v. Wade, the landmark court case, even dealt with abortion. This is not to say that when questioned, “millenials” (those ages 18-29) disagree with Roe’s legalization of abortion – 68% of us think that at least some health care professionals should provide legal abortions, and an overwhelming 60% think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. However, our striking lack of knowledge about our past can be dangerous for as Jews keenly understand, not forgetting the past is essential to the maintenance of justice and progress in the present.
Today – the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision – gives us just such an opportunity to pay tribute to those who fought for the reproductive health of this generation, and to look toward the challenges we face in the future. There are a multitude of ways for you, your synagogue and your community to commemorate this occasion:
- Read: On the Women of Reform Judaism’s blog, there will be a series entitled “4 Voices on the 40th” where you can read the personal stories of four women across four generations, and how they relate to Roe v. Wade and issues of reproductive justice. Share these stories with others around you, and feel free to share your own story in the “comments” section of the blog.
- Learn: Read last Friday’s “10 Minutes of Torah” for more insight on the Jewish perspective regarding reproductive rights. Open up a conversation at your synagogue on this topic, and on what responsibilities we as Jews have toward ensuring reproductive justice for everyone in our communities.
- Educate: The RAC’s Reproductive Rights webpage has information on the current status of abortion and family planning rights in the U.S. (and how dramatically these rights change as you cross state lines), as well as a section on why we as Jews should care about this crucial issue. Use the Roe v. Wade Anniversary as an opportunity to learn about your own rights, and to educate others on the fights that are still ongoing.
- Share: Tell us what your congregations are doing, so we can share your ideas and successes with a broader audience. Email Sarah Krinsky, RAC Legislative Assistant, with any stories or information from your home synagogue.
Nothing in the Torah is coincidental. The repeated use of certain words, the choice of names, the span of time—everything is linked to a greater or deeper theological meaning. Nowhere is this more so than with numbers. Whole fields of study and schools of thought have arisen around the idea that numbers in the Torah are symbolic, meaningful and informative.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York indulged in the annual right of passage afforded a state executive and delivered his “State of the State” address this afternoon to a crowd of legislators, journalists and politicos in Albany. Just last month he wrote an op-ed for the Times Union outlining his “litmus test” of ten issues the legislature should tackle this year, ranging from education reform and protecting a woman’s right to choose to raising the state minimum wage and campaign finance reform.
These issues have been topics of discussion for the past year in Albany, but ultimately glimmers of progress became few and far in between as the election in November loomed and legislators became increasingly concerned with retaining their seats. But while all of the policy initiatives outlined by the Governor deserve to be accorded time and energy by legislators, the press and advocacy organizations, there is one issue that has skyrocketed to the top of the list. Read more…
For many, the end of 2012 was a welcome relief. While 2012 was not the worst year in recent history for pro-choice advocates, it certainly wasn’t the best. Over 40 state abortion restrictions were enacted in states ranging from Arizona to South Carolina to Virginia. These laws took many forms, some more egregious than others: parental notification policies were tightened, abortion coverage even on the insurance exchanges was abolished, later term abortions were criminalized, and mandatory waiting periods and counseling (where women can be presented with misleading misinformation such as the supposed link between abortion and breast cancer) were enacted.
The quote from Deuteronomy, “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deut. 16:20) is a bit of a catchphrase here at the Religious Action Center. It is our proof text for the many long struggles toward justice in which we engage. However, it can be a difficult idea to fully grasp. For one thing, scholars have long debated just what the repetition of the word tzedek – justice – really means. At organizations like the RAC, which works on some 60 issues, perhaps it means that we must pursue multiple justices at once. We must seek this justice and also that justice at the same time – a task riddled with difficulties in the modern era of omnibus legislation.
One such difficulty played out this week when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013. As we have written on this blog before, this year’s NDAA contained several concerning sections about the rights of service-members and detainees as well as a major victory for servicewomen and reproductive rights.