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Resolution on Reproductive Freedom

Background:
While over the past 30 years the Rabbinical Assembly has come out in favor of Reproductive Freedom and Choice in a number of areas, such as abortion (1975 and subsequently); violence and pro-choice (1993);  the 2005 resolution supporting informed access to reproductive care and the letter sent later that year to Senator Arlen Specter,  expressing concern on the use of reproductive choice as a litmus test in the appointment of Federal judges;  there has not yet been a comprehensive resolution on the whole issue of Reproductive Freedom of choice.

In addition, the RA supports the Prevention First Act, current legislation before the Congress, which would increase access to family planning, improve health care for low-income women and families, and prevent unintended pregnancies.

On April 18, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart, upholding the Federal Abortion Ban, the chilling first ever federal ban on an abortion method without an exception for women’s health. 

In 2003 President Bush signed the Federal Abortion Ban into law. This ban, which outlaws some of the safest abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks with no provision to protect a woman’s health, was immediately challenged and struck down by six separate courts, all of which agreed that it unconstitutionally failed to protect women’s health, a position the Rabbinical Assembly supported. The Bush administration pursued the ban to the Supreme Court where it was heard on November 8, 2006 by a new court. The United States Supreme Court upheld this ban, outlawing a safe, common abortions method even when woman’s health is in jeopardy.

Whereas Jewish tradition cherishes the sanctity of life, including the potential of life which a pregnant woman carries within her;

Whereas Judaism does not believe that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but with birth;

Whereas Jewish law does not condone or permit abortion for contraceptive purposes, but where the life or health of the mother are in jeopardy;

Whereas the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly has affirmed the right of a woman to choose an abortion in cases where “continuation of a pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or where the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective;”

Whereas to deny a woman and her family full access to the complete spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, abortion-inducing devices, and abortions, among others, on religious grounds is to deprive these women of their Constitutional right to religious freedom; and

Whereas every year nearly 80 million unintended pregnancies occur worldwide, more than half of which end in abortion, and access to information, education and services on voluntary family planning prevents unplanned pregnancies thereby preventing abortions. 

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly urges its members to support full access for all women to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare, and to oppose all efforts by federal, state, local or private entities or individuals to limit such access;

Be it further resolved that members of the Rabbinical Assembly communicate with their governmental officials on the key issues mentioned above, urging action which would promote the Reproductive Freedom and well-being of women and girls; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly support HR 1225, the Focus on Family Health Worldwide Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives which urges access to voluntary family planning and increases authorized funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s voluntary family planning programs to $600 million in FY 2008, and then by an additional $100 million annually, over the next four years, reaching $1 billion in FY 2012.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, February, 2007