Arguing that “conservatives must recognize the imperative of developing a more articulate and coherent position on [the] divisive and sensitive question” of whether abortion should be legal in cases where the pregnancy results from rape, Shlomo Brody believes it would help to contemplate Orthodox Jewish positions on the subject.
Jewish law clearly maintains a generally conservative outlook that rejects the pro-choice mantra of abortion on demand. Based on select verses in Genesis, the talmudic sages concluded that as a general rule feticide is prohibited . . . for Jews and Gentiles alike. As such, it remains prohibited to request or perform abortions not justified by Jewish law.
Yet instead of operating under one dominating moral claim, Jewish law introduces several ethical variables to address the complexities of the dilemma. While Orthodox Judaism has no centralized institution that issues authoritative rulings for its followers, various rulings of leading legal decisors . . . permit abortions in cases of rape, at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy.
This nuanced approach, surveys indicate, reflects the sentiments of many Americans, who see the “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” [categories] as overly simplistic. For this reason, it pays for conservative candidates who are generally averse to abortion on demand to pay attention to a biblically inspired moral perspective that may attract swing voters. . . .
Given the complex balance between competing moral values and the [requirement] to evaluate each case on an individual basis, Orthodox political activists have consistently favored legislation that keeps abortion legal in cases of rape and incest, which matches current Israeli law. . . .
Accordingly, pro-life activists operating with monochromatic guidelines have not found political bedfellows with the Orthodox Jewish community on this issue, in spite of its generally prohibitive stance toward abortions on demand. To my mind, this is unfortunate, as Orthodox Jews should ideally be joining with other pro-life advocates (religion and non-religious alike) in advocating for a more conservative approach to abortion.