Orthodox Rabbis Debate New York State’s New Abortion Law

Feb. 18 2019

In January, New York State passed one of the country’s most permissive abortion laws. Its primary purpose is to uphold the legality of abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned, but it also loosens restrictions on abortion in certain circumstances. Two Orthodox organizations—the mainstream Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and the ḥaredi Agudath Israel of America—condemned the new law, but some more liberal Orthodox rabbis have dissented. According to the RCA’s statement, “Jewish law opposes abortion, except in cases of danger to the mother. Most authorities consider feticide an act of murder; others deem it an act akin to the murder of potential life.” Even though the RCA “supports that part of the law that permits abortion, even at a late stage, [if] the mother’s life is at risk,” it concluded that the law’s general permissiveness toward abortion is unacceptable.

To this, Ruth Friedman and Shmuel Herzfeld respond:

There is, in fact, nothing new [about the recent legislation], except insofar as it permits abortions after 24 weeks of conception in certain, limited situations that have long been permitted under Jewish law, but which previously were prohibited under New York State law. . . . That is something that we should be happy about. . . .

[Nevertheless], abortion “on-demand” is antithetical to halakhah. Traditional Jewish sources emphatically prohibit recourse to abortion except in exceptional circumstances. But traditional Jewish law also clearly diverges from traditional Christian dogma, considering it unnecessary and unhelpful to define life’s beginning at conception, [instead] allowing for its judicious use when halakhah demands it.

Daniel Korobkin of the RCA writes in his rebuttal:

What is clear halakhically is that all Orthodox [authorities] forbid abortion unless there is some degree of danger to the mother’s life. A very large number (I hesitate to say “most” because in a world where every rabbi has an equal vote, that word is largely moot) of 20th-century authorities have also ruled that once the fetus is viable—that is, capable of living outside the womb—aborting the fetus is tantamount to homicide. These authorities include: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach.

This does not mean that halakhah absolutely forbids late-term abortion. It does mean, however, that for a very large body of authorities, one would have to justify an act of killing a fetus in order to perform a late-term abortion. Such justification can indeed be made when the mother’s life is in danger. The new act, however, is overly liberal in making allowances for the sake of the mother’s health and also gives excessive latitude to those making such a determination.

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Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Abortion, Halakhah, New York, Politics & Current Affairs, Religion & Holidays

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy