A Brief’s Insight Into Judaism’s View On Abortion: A Ten Commandments’ Tale

“amici,” a jewish organization, filed a brief in the united states supreme court abortion rights case. “amici are jewish religious leaders and organizations who agree that legal abortion in america is an egregious wrong that must be rectified.” this post will discuss their brief so that one can understand their position.

at the supreme court, non-parties to an action can file amicus curiae or amicus briefs. essentially, they are “friends of the court” briefs. thus, third parties with an interest or expertise with respect to an issue may want to seek to influence a court decision.  

individuals or groups who are not parties to an action can file amicus briefs. they are known as “friends of the court” briefs. the reason why they file them is that they have an interest in the litigation before the court.

for non-lawyers, there are two areas of a brief that will provide a basic understanding of the legal position. one is to look at that points presented and argued, and second, in this case, the brief’s short synopsis.

the points of amici’s brief were that judaism is a pro-life religion and that jewish law permits abortion when it is done to protect the mother’s life. in sum, judaism does not provide for an “absolute” ban on abortion. the reason to allow for the, however, is very limited. the brief expresses in another point that abortion is antithetical to jewish ethics and morals. further, the brief points to jewish peoples’ historical concern with respect to genocide and eugenics.

the brief offered the following summary of argument:

“judaism has a strong legal tradition of protecting human life and prohibiting the murder of “infant life” in the womb. Pregnancy and childbearing are considered religious and social responsibilities, making it incumbent upon jews to protect the safety and health of
both mother and child. jewish doctrine also recognizes that in very rare cases the infant life in the womb may pose a serious threat to the mother’s life, and in this
rare instance a termination is permissible. this very narrow exception to the prohibition of
abortion in judaism was biblically justified for a breech birth. Life threatening situations now occur in less than 1% of all pregnancies, making this exception almost inapplicable.
abortion is antithetical to torah principles. the act of abortion, and the industry that promotes and benefits financially from it, violates all jewish ethics and morals.
The history of Judaism includes many existential threats to Jewish life in the form of state sponsored mass murder. this makes us especially sensitive to the
plight of the child in the womb, whose protection under the law was completely abrogated by roe v. wade, doe v. bolton and planned parenthood v. casey. this tragic human rights violation must be remedied. the mississippi law in this case seeks to protect
the god-given right to life for babies of 15 weeks gestation and beyond. yet, most significant developmental milestones occur during the first eight weeks following
conception. a baby’s heart beats at 22 days, and her brainwaves can be measured at 6 weeks. at 9 weeks all internal organs are present and the baby is sensitive
to touch. as early as 8 weeks, the “infant” feels real physical pain during an abortion.
this is much sooner than the 15-week issue before the court, a gestational age
when the pain felt by the baby must surely be considered. jeremiah 22:3 admonishes us to avoid causing pain and death to the powerless: “do what is right and
just; rescue the wronged from their oppressors; do nothing wrong or violent to the stranger, orphan or widow; don’t shed innocent blood in this place.” science has advanced a great deal since 1973 when roe v. wade and doe v. bolton were decided.
a new human being is formed at the moment of conception, a human being that never existed and will never exist again. this court has a providential opportunity to correct its misguided error of 1973. the jewish concept of teshuvah allows for heavenly forgiveness of sins against the most vulnerable among us. amici implore the court to study our arguments in this filing and thereby find the moral authority and
conviction to overturn roe, doe and casey. indeed, to apply the protective elements of the 14th amendment of the constitution to all children.” brief

the brief cited an extensive amount of authorities and parts of the bible to make its point. the brief also included positions of contemporary religious figures and authorities.

in sum, this brief offers one jewish position on abortion. other jewish organizations have filed briefs. irrespective of whether they are for or against abortion, they cannot deny that one of judaism’s major tenet is that exceptions to engaging in certain acts, such as performing religious rituals, when they place an individual’s life at risk. a classic example is fasting. for instance, an elderly person or someone with diabetes may not be able to safely fast. they require food and medications on a daily basis. as such, they are exempted from fasting. the question of debate would be “what are circumstances that one could say that a mother’s life is at risk?” further, this brief posits that life begins at conception. are there other religious authorities that differ on the question “when does life begin?” in the end, if roe vs. wade is overturned as authority and abortion rights are returned to the states, it is likely that these views will be offered up to all states to consider when determining their rules and regulations on reproductive rights.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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