Convoluted Jewish Arguments in Favor of Abortion Rest on a Misunderstanding of Religious Freedom

June 23, 2022 | Howard Slugh and Tal Fortgang
About the author:

The vast majority of American Jews are pro-choice, and this position is generally reflected in the beliefs of the liberal denominations. And while Orthodox rabbis tend to take a restrictive stance on abortion, they too overwhelming permit—and occasionally mandate—the termination of pregnancies in certain extreme circumstances. But some Jewish groups have gone a step further to claim that state or federal prohibitions on abortion violate Jews’ religious freedom. Howard Slugh and Tal Fortgang explain:

A congregation that purports to follow “Cosmic Judaism” filed a lawsuit against Florida. The complaint challenges restrictions on abortion on two grounds. First, that Jewish law sometimes permits or even requires abortions. Second, that supporters of abortion restrictions are sometimes motivated by Christian beliefs. They claim that, for each of those reasons, the statute violates the First Amendment.

While the complaint purports to describe “Jewish law,” this group is, by its own admission, unique in its practices and was founded by a rabbi who rejects “the God of the Bible.” . . . These arguments are not solely the province of fringe sects, [however]. The Reform rabbi Danya Ruttenberg made similar arguments in a recent Atlantic article. . . . Rabbi Ruttenberg’s positions reflect an emergent view within progressive Judaism.

The legal complaint argues that because some people have religious motivations for restricting abortion, the Florida law violates Jews’ rights by “unconstitutionally establishing religion.” Ruttenberg mirrors this claim when she argues that abortion regulations “enshrine specific Christian concepts” into the law and “trample over other understandings of when life begins.”

These arguments are badly misplaced, to put it mildly. There are secular reasons why someone might support abortion regulation.

Read more on National Review: