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choice is authentic freedom

04/03/2019 10:39:11 AM


Rabbi Shalom Lewis

This is not a definitive, halachic piece on a very contentious, emotionally explosive issue but I hope it offers some guidance. I am irreversibly pro-choice. Having seen my grandson in utero on the ultra sound was stunning and incredibly gorgeous, nevertheless, my position remains unaltered. Our Georgia Legislature has acted with moral pomposity and misogynistic arrogance in approving the ‘Fetal Heart Beat Bill’. For those celebrating less government intrusion, this reeks of hypocrisy, though I accept that good, sincere folks are on both sides of the issue.

Some Jewish ramblings. In any and all cases fetal life is absolutely subordinate to the mother’s life. If a fetus poses a lethal threat to the mother, then termination is nothing less than an act of self- defense. The innocence and passivity of the fetus is irrelevant. This is accepted across the Jewish spectrum. However, if the threat is emotional, as a result of rape, incest, fetal viability, potential mental distress, then those on the liberal end of the spectrum would permit abortion. I am in that liberal camp.

Does a fetal heart beat define a human being, or, as in our tradition, a potential human being? Can a pregnant woman drive by herself in the HOV lane? May she enter an R rated movie while pregnant? Is there a coroner’s inquest in the event of a miscarriage? The sages teach that until the moment of birth a mother carries an uber/fetus not a tinoke/baby. Great faiths can disagree but must respect their holy divergence. Hence the primacy of choice must prevail. Does a brain-dead adult on life support with a heart beat constitute a living human being or one whose viability is an illusion?

Now for clarification on late term abortions. Even in the last seconds of pregnancy, moments before birth, after nine full months, if the mother’s life is clearly threatened by a live birth then abortion is permitted to save her life. But, with no threat at this late stage of pregnancy, I would not support abortion if the fetus is easily removed with every indication of becoming a healthy baby, enjoying a long life. It is irresponsible for a mother to abort a fetus that possess viability at this late date. A decision should have been made months earlier. Equivocating on such a serious matter endorses a dangerous slippery slope trivializing human life. Adoption is always a noble gesture for a reluctant birth mother. Permit me to clarify what has become a nasty, political rallying cry on both sides of the aisle. If a baby is born healthy, no one is calling for termination of that life despite some of the bumbling, inarticulate explanations we have heard, igniting outrage. That would be murder. Plain and simple. If at birth, however, the baby is sickly, barely viable with limited life expectancy, then and only then is a discussion of what to do appropriate and proper.

Governor Kemp. Do not sign this bill.

Mon, June 1 2020 9 Sivan 5780