There is more than one way to speak morally about reproductive rights. I certainly respect those who believe abortion is wrong. As a rabbi, however, I do not respect how Ohio leaders pretend that the only moral position is one which subverts women's reproductive freedom.
The latest proposal, Ohio Senate Bill 145, seeks to ban the most common medical procedure of (second trimester) abortion. Like many restrictive policies, it forces Ohio women into a situation to accept inferior, ill-advised options from their physicians. In addition, it acts as one more step to shun a woman from seeking reproductive care from her doctor. We know worldwide how this type of obstacle only encourages the practice of unsafe, illegal abortions, causing death or permanent damage to women's bodies and souls.
Advocates of SB 145 speak as though they've cornered the market on how a faith community expresses a moral position regarding pregnancy. But the moral values I share with many people of faith favor the life and well-being of a woman over that of her fetus in utero. We reject unfair restrictions that harass a woman or limit her complete agency over her body. Indeed, members of many religious institutions are supported by their faith's teachings about a woman intentionally ending her pregnancy.
In Judaism, our legal codes recognize life as beginning only when a fetus emerges into the world. Before that time, a woman's life, safety, and well-being are given priority. This has led to many different rabbinical rulings favoring a woman's right to an abortion if a pregnancy may cause harm to her physically or bring about emotional anguish, if the fetus carries a harmful disease, or if the pregnancy was caused by rape, incest, or another form of coercive violence. While not every Jew agrees with these teachings, it is fair to say that the encroachment of a Jewish woman's right to reproductive freedom contravenes both her constitutional rights and her ability to practice her religion freely.
Indeed, I would personally suggest that many in the public square who fight safe, legal abortion care as a means to their own political ends are guilty of what the biblical composers called toevah, an abomination.
Why do women choose to get abortions? They do so for many moral reasons. Many women who choose abortion are already raising children and struggling to make ends meet. Some of them are concerned for their pregnancies because of domestic violence in their homes. Others are anguished because their pregnancy is a result of assault or rape. They are women who never wanted to be pregnant, alongside others who actually want to be pregnant someday.
Some women get abortions because they are serving in our armed forces and need to be prepared to fight. Others choose to end a pregnancy because they have just started high school or college. They make these decisions in their homes and our neighborhoods and often after consulting their religious leaders.
In this moment, all of Ohio's women should be able to consult with a doctor about the full range of legal and safe procedures available to them. I pray Senate Bill 145 will be rejected, because each woman deserves the dignity and respect to make her own reproductive decisions. That is the morally right thing to do.