Orthodox Rabbis Debate New York State’s New Abortion Law

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.

Read more at Jewish Journal

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

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship