U.S. Jewish Leaders Decry Supreme Court's Nixing of Abortion Rights as 'Moral Failure'

U.S. Jewish groups overwhelmingly condemn the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, lamenting a 'direct violation of both our American values and our Jewish tradition'

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington D.C.
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Abortion-rights activists react outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Friday.
Abortion-rights activists react outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Friday.Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/ AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington D.C.

U.S. Jewish groups on Friday sharply denounced the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman's constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide, deeming it a "moral failure" that puts lives at risk.

"By overturning 50 years of precedent, safe and vital abortion care is now virtually inaccessible to millions of people who need it. In the weeks and months ahead, we will see the devastating impact this ruling will have on human lives," the National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz said.

“This egregious decision is a direct violation of both our American values and our Jewish tradition. Reversing the protections of Roe defies logic, morality, compassion and the fundamental right of all Americans to practice their religious beliefs without interference from the government," she said, adding that "the rights of American Jews and other people of faith who believe in access to abortion, who are the majority of people in this country, have been sacrificed to the overwhelming zeal of one small group that has turned the shield of religious freedom into a sword."

“This decision will forever alter the lives of those who will be forced to remain pregnant, increasing the chances that they will face life-threatening medical complications, poverty and unemployment," Katz noted.

Hadassah President Rhoda Smolow and CEO Naomi Adler called the decision "an attack on American women and their rights to health care, privacy and autonomy. Without federal protection for their rights, women across the country could now be barred from making their own health decisions under a patchwork of inconsistent state laws."

The court's ruling restores states' ability to pass laws prohibiting abortion by erasing it as a constitutional right. Twenty-six states are seen as either certain or likely now to ban abortion, and 13 states already have so-called trigger laws designed to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Hillel International, which serves Jewish students at more than 850 colleges and universities, noted the decision "will jeopardize the well-being of our students and professionals, particularly those of limited economic means and those in states where legal abortion will now be unavailable."

Yolanda Savage-Narva, Assistant Vice President of Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion of the Union for Reform Judaism, noted the ruling "disproportionately impacts those already facing discriminatory obstacles to health care and other human rights including Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, undocumented people, and low-income people."

The Orthodox Union noted it was "unable to either mourn or celebrate" the ruling, adding that "the extreme polarization around and politicization of the abortion issue does not bode well for a much-needed nuanced result. Human life — the value of everyone created in the Divine Image — is far too important."

The Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly called it "one of the most extreme instances of governmental overreach in our lifetime," calling on members of Congress to decisively codify Roe v. Wade into law.

The American Jewish Committee, meanwhile, called to "guard against future efforts to undermine other hard-fought civil liberties, including contraception and same-sex marriage."

The U.S. Jewish community overwhelmingly supports abortion access. Seventy-five percent of Jewish voters in America previously said they were concerned that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v Wade, according to the Jewish Electoral Institute's 2022 National Survey of Jewish voters, while 83 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. Further, traditional Jewish law permits, and sometimes requires, abortion in some circumstances, particularly when the life or health of the pregnant person is at stake.

"Efforts to restrict abortion access also undermine the religious freedom of people who, as in the Jewish tradition, uphold abortion care as a medically necessary and righteous procedure," Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said.

The Jewish Democratic Council for America, meanwhile, placed blame with Republican senators who confirmed former U.S. President Donald Trump's court nominees. 'We cannot afford to trust Sens. Collins, Murkowski, Romney with our rights going forward, which is why it's so critical that we expand the Democratic Senate majority in November."

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