Letters: The Torah and Abortion


Abortion Choice a Personal One
The op-ed by Rabbi Yaakov Menken (The Torah Is Unequivocally Pro-life,” May 12) is interesting in the case he tries to build in saying that the Torah is “pro-life.” I agree that the Torah is in favor of life.

Where we disagree is whether being in favor of life means that the Torah would side with the so-called “pro-life” movement.

Even Menken acknowledges that the Torah has “authority over moral judgments.” Moral judgments are what we as individuals use to lead our lives. Perhaps under a Jewish theocracy it could be banned. I note, however, that even in Israel abortion is not banned, but a lower percentage of women tend to get them as compared to the rest of the world. Apparently, women are using their moral judgments to make these decisions.

There is no place in Torah, however, to find support for the idea that a secular government ruling over a diverse community of varying beliefs, has the right to weigh in on the side of a fetus against a woman’s choice based on bodily autonomy.

Under our secular law, as it has always been, a person gets legal rights once born alive.
The choice to get or not get an abortion is an agonizingly personal one. Let’s leave it to the woman, and whoever she might choose to consult, to make it.

Jules Mermelstein, Dresher

Op-ed Left Out Part of the Story
While I appreciate greatly the number of articles about the abortion issue in the most recent edition of the Jewish Exponent, I was extremely disturbed by the piece used to represent the Torah-observant opinion. The Torah is most definitely not unequivocally pro-life as described by Rabbi Yaakov Menken (The Torah Is Unequivocally Pro-life,” May 12) in his piece that leaves out several verses from our holy books specifically addressing this critical issue.

In Mishna Oholot, Chapter 7 verse 6, our sages wrote 2,000 years ago, “If a woman is having trouble giving birth, they cut up the child in her womb and bring it forth limb by limb, because her life comes before the life of [the child]. But if the greater part has come out, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for that of another.”

In Exodus Chapter 21, verses 22-23, the Torah states, “And should men quarrel and hit a pregnant woman, and she miscarried but there is no fatality, he shall surely be punished, when the woman’s husband makes demands of him, and he shall give restitution according to the judges orders. But if there is a fatality, you shall give a life for a life.”

While these verses are very specific and graphic in nature, they both obviously are quite clear about one thing: In the Jewish tradition, the life, health and well-being of the mother takes precedence over the fetus inside her and its unfortunate loss is not considered a fatality on par with the loss of the mother carrying it.

Bettina Dunn, Rhawnhurst


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