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IRF Reaffirms Basic Values on Abortion

February 12, 2019

In light of the recent public discussion around legislative initiatives regarding the difficult and contentious issue of Abortion, the IRF, reaffirms the following basic values and perspectives:

1. We live in a politically diverse and pluralistic society in which different, sincerely held views of many religious and secular communities in America are often in conflict with one another. We recognize that political compromises do not always yield legislation that is in agreement with everyone’s deeply held positions.

2. We vigorously oppose the endorsement of legislative measures which would impede those who want to follow Halakha and their conscience to be able to do so freely and without sanction. We applaud measures that ensure freedom of conscience and religion for all. At the same time, we encourage civil society to help provide, in a non coercive fashion, social and financial support for families who want to bring their children to term but feel economic duress to end their pregnancies.

3. Halakha does not believe in a basic right to abortion, as some in the progressive community advocate, nor does it advocate for a hard “right to life” view for which some conservative thinkers argue. Halacha forbids the killing of a fetus for no reason, and we are even commanded to desecrate Shabbat in order to save its life. However, as long as the fetus is in its mother’s womb, it does not have the legal status of a human being. Though the Christian moral tradition may believe that human life begins at conception, there is no question that this is not the position of halakha. Poskim have a range of nuanced positions on situations in which halakhically permitted abortions may be undertaken for the health and well being of the mother and/or in situations where it clear the baby that will be born would live an extremely painful and truncated life.

4. We recognize the terrible pain that is caused to mothers and parents when they learn that a pregnancy must be terminated, and we pray that no person will ever need to know such sorrow.

5. We encourage all those in our community confronting these painful and difficult choices to seek out the best medical advice in tandem with expert halakhic guidance. We are confident that these professionals will express their advice with the utmost sensitivity, integrity and compassion.

6. The IRF is committed to publishing an on line symposium in the future containing articles from rabbinic scholars, communal leaders, mental health professionals, and lay people sharing personal experiences, on this difficult and challenging topic.

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