A Jewish Perspective on the Merits, and Dangers, of a Supreme Court Reversal on Abortion

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is, to Rabbi Avi Shafran—who serves as director of public affairs for the ḥaredi Agudath Israel of America—justified on constitutional, political, religious, and moral grounds. Yet he also worries about the possible adverse effects, especially for Jews, of such a decision:

[L]eaving each state’s voters to balance respect for personal freedom with respect for nascent life, as a reversal of Roe would do, strikes me as reasonable, while the howls of outrage at that scenario strike me as overwrought. There are two important and conflicting concerns to be weighed against one another here, and the weighing isn’t accomplished by chants and placards.

At the same time that I will heartily welcome a reversal of Roe, should the draft opinion be adopted by the court when its decision is handed down later this term, I have concerns about what might follow—such as legislative proposals that would afford a fetus full rights as a person or that outlaw abortion without exception.

There are cases in which the option of abortion does need to be available—like when a pregnancy’s progression threatens the life of the potential mother. Jewish law permits, in fact requires, abortion in such cases, and the vast majority of Americans are of similar mind. There are also pregnancies in which the fetus has genetic abnormalities or will face a fatal disease after birth. Some Jewish sources consider that a circumstance in which a woman might also be sanctioned to undergo an abortion.

Roe was a sledgehammer, and wrongly wielded. In the wake of its reversal, citizens in each state would be charged with using a scalpel to instead craft laws that treat nascent life with respect while accommodating the protection of women’s well-being.

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Read more at NBC News

More about: Abortion, American law, Halakhah

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy