It remains common to read each day about voices raised in protests concerning abortion.
Some advocate Roe v. Wade should be struck down by the Supreme Court. Others propose that Ohio redefine life as the onset of fetal heartbeat, and thus grant each fetus the legal rights of personhood. Still others believe a court or a legislature’s definition of life is not nearly as important as what each of us learns by searching our own conscience.
Ideally, as we each consider the recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this would be a time for each of us to step back from the raging voices, the stigma and shame attached to so much discussion of abortion. For no matter how volatile this conversation can be on the political stage, our homes and our faith communities can be places where we elevate this conversation.
This guest post is by Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, senior rabbi at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood OH. It was originally written for the Messages of Faith column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer on 2/16/13 and is reprinted with permission.
In this way, a discussion of abortion could focus on real issues women face, and the dilemmas abortion actually raises to society. In this way, we would together lift the shroud of contention and rage attached to the political discussion of abortion, and uncover relevant understandings of the texts and practices of our faith streams and the convictions of community leaders concerning pregnancy and abortion, life and choice.
I know abortion is a difficult topic to raise — often surrounded by heated debate. It is also clear that many of us carry a paucity of information about what our faiths actually teach and practices of when abortion is warranted, permissible or even mandated.
According to a 2011 study by the Guttmacher Institute, as many as one in three women in our country have an abortion or a procedure classified as an abortion during their lifetime. This reminds us how common it is. It is one of the reasons the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism advocates publicly for abortion rights every day.
Yet with abortion so very common, I also want our synagogue and its sister faith institutions to deliver a better grasp of our faith teachings, before more unwanted pregnancies occur among families, and before new legal restrictions are imposed here in Ohio.
In recent weeks at our Temple, we have honored the Roe v. Wade anniversary by facilitating a study of Jewish legal literature on abortion, in classes for adults to learn about the relevant teachings in Biblical and Rabbinical sources. Additionally, we hosted a gathering of the local Freedom of Choice Coalition to hear from legislative leaders, and held a Sabbath service in which we further examined Biblical teachings and heard from community leaders seeking to prompt a more sensitive, honest and reflective conversation on abortion.
We have taken all these steps, as our part in the work of “My Abortion, My Life,” a campaign to encourage respectful discussion in our homes of abortion experiences. I personally learned a great deal from hearing a diverse group of Clevelanders discussing abortion in a neighbor’s living room in a nonpolitical way. I left moved to be a catalyst for such respectful conversations.
I encourage you to also be such a catalyst, and to approach faith and neighborhood leaders with the need for advocacy and education, not only for legislators or judges, but also for the women of all ages and backgrounds who inhabit our synagogues, churches, mosques and community centers.
Each woman considering an abortion is entitled to receive her faith’s counsel and compassion, or at the very least the proper information to help her face a situation in which she contemplates seeking an abortion for herself or a loved one.