We don't often write about abortion here. It is not because it is verboten or because we thought it was settled law or because the backlash (that inevitably comes when you so much as utter the word) drowns out all other meaningful discourse.
We don't write about it because we have always understood it to be private and deeply personal. (Even as we know that women's bodies are constantly subject to surveillance and suspicion and regarded as public, somehow.)
We don't write about it because we understand it to be tied to a person's theological understanding and religious tradition. (Even as we know that this nation does not actually protect religious freedom if it is not that of white Christian men.)
We know that there are a few faith traditions that believe that life begins at conception and that potential life inside the womb has the same value as a fully formed human outside of the womb. But this is not *all* religious traditions. This is not even true of all Christian denominations. There are *many* religions that do not share this understanding or belief.
For example, Judaism.
Judaism is exceedingly clear about the life of the mother, the health of the mother, that the well-being of the mother—as a fully formed human being living in the world—takes priority over that of the gestating child. Want to understand more about it? Read Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's recent (brilliant) piece, "My Religion Makes Me Pro-abortion."
"Many of us working to protect the right to abortion are doing so because of our religious commitments, not despite them."
She goes on to explain, "A story from the Book of Exodus, part of the Hebrew Bible, forms the backbone of Judaism’s formal take on abortion. Two people are fighting; one accidentally pushes someone who is pregnant, causing a miscarriage. The text outlines the consequences: If only a miscarriage happens, the harm doer is obligated to pay financial damages. If, however, the pregnant person dies, the case is treated as manslaughter. The meaning is clear: The fetus is regarded as potential life, rather than actual life."
The Mishnah—which is the core of the Talmud and more than 2,000 years old—calls for abortion if the life of the pregnant person is at stake. That is, "Jews are permitted to terminate a pregnancy—and, when our lives are at stake, we may be obligated by Jewish law to do so. Government intervention that would prevent the free exercise of these religious tenets constitutes an infringement of First Amendment rights."
The rabbi's religious tradition is specific. It is prescriptive. It is also protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So today's SCOTUS decision in Dobbs v Jackson undermines the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
What today's decision does is make some people's religious beliefs into everyone's religious beliefs. And, without question or exception, prohibits the free exercise thereof of what is *expected of and required by* some religious traditions.
Today's decision not only says that women not only cannot but should not have full agency over their bodies, but it also says that *not* everyone is allowed the freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment to practice their religion.
We refuse to believe that rights are reserved for some and not all.
There are peaceful protests all over the nation and all over the Equality State today. Find one near you here.