by Jonathan Rosenblum
April 8, 2005
American labor organizer Saul Alinsky used to say, "Immoral enemies make stupid mistakes." Usually by revealing their true nature, he might have added.
A recent Supreme Court petition by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and public arm of the Movement of Progressive Judaism in Israel, proves Alinsky's dictum. The petition singles out EFRAT, an organization devoted to reducing abortion in the Jewish sector, as unfit to receive national service volunteers.
Last year EFRAT provided assistance to over 1,400 women, the vast majority of them married, who had been contemplating abortion for socio-economic reasons. Referrals to EFRAT come almost entirely from social workers and friends of the women in question. Initial discussions with those women are handled by one of EFRAT's 3,000 volunteers (many of whom are past beneficiaries of EFRAT's services) and a professional social worker.
IRAC declares that "involvement in preventing abortions in the Jewish sector cannot be recognized as an appropriate welfare issue." (One of the IRAC attorneys told Shofar News that IRAC would not have objected if EFRAT also provided assistance to Arab women.) Yet, as Professor Amnon Rubinstein wrote recently, "without a Jewish majority, there is no Israel." If Israel can encourage that Jewish majority through the Law of Return, surely it can also provide indirect aid to an organization devoted to combating the demographic threat to Israel by reducing Jewish abortions.
Providing pregnant women with information about financial assistance and emotional support available to them, according to IRAC, violates their basic rights to human dignity, privacy, and freedom of conscience. Far from reducing a woman's choice, however, EFRAT increases her ability to make an informed decision by relieving her of the some of the economic pressure pushing her towards abortion. According to Dr. Eli Schussheim, director of EFRAT, not one of the 17,000 women aided by EFRAT has ever expressed regret about her decision to give birth.
IRAC's petition provides a classic example of how unmoored the Reform movement is in Jewish sources. Judaism does not view one's body as his private property to do with what he will. Rather the body is a trust from G-d to be sanctified through His commandments.
Even more astounding is how quickly a "woman's right to her own body" morphs, for the Reform movement, into the view that abortion is a positive good. According to the petition, it is absurd for the state to permit abortions, under theoretically limited conditions, and simultaneously seek to reduce them. The only absurdity, however, is the petitioner's logic: Just because something is permitted doesn't mean the state must encourage it.
And so does a movement calling itself "Jewish," comes to encourage abortions, something halachah views, in most cases, as a form of murder.
THE RECENT COURT-ORDERED execution of Terri Schiavo provides another example of the easy deformation of "rights." In her case, the "right to die," quickly transmuted into the duty to die and/or a husband's right to kill by dehydration an inconvenient wife. In the Netherlands, which has legalized euthanasia, there is growing evidence of the elderly and infirm feeling pressured to submit to euthanasia so as not to burden their families. And Americans with disabilities were right to view the Schiavo case as a chilling precedent.
Millions of Americans, who demand endless appeals and proof beyond all reasonable doubt for serial killers, fairly clamored for Schiavo's death, unconcerned about the incredibly low evidentiary bar set in her case. "I would not wish to live a life deprived of my present pleasures," they reasoned, "and surely she would not either."
Yet we are notoriously bad even about projecting ourselves, much less others, into different situations. As vibrant twenty-year-olds, we view old age with disgust, and yet most of us will shuffle off only reluctantly. Christopher Reeve's first thought upon learning that he had been left a quadriplegic was that he wanted to die. But that lasted only until he realized how much his children and wife wanted him to live.
Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer would kill infants with Down Syndrome and those with physical deformities – e.g., missing limbs, cleft palate – at birth. Even a classroom debate with Harriet McBryde Johnson, a quadriplegic, disabilities rights activist, left Singer's position unchanged. The Down syndrome children I know, however, do not appear less happy than other children – quite the opposite. And I have never talked to a parent of a Downs child who did not feel that every member of the family had grown through that child.
It is not the ability to experience certain physical or intellectual pleasures that gives life value. Christopher Reeve accomplished far more in his nine years in a wheelchair than he ever did as Superman. Nor is an individual's purpose limited to his or her own awareness. I know many who feel that their lives have been immeasurably elevated by caring for loved ones without any possibility of reciprocity.
Israel's Reform movement fights against efforts to reduce Jewish abortion in the name of women's rights. And the majority of their American counterparts no doubt saw Terri Schiavo's killing as no more than a fulfillment of her "right to die."
And the Torah? What’s that?
Related Topics: Jewish Ethics, Pluralism
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