The Jewish view of abortion

Although the traditional Jewish position is generally “pro-life,” or at any rate anti-abortion, this does not mean that a traditional Jew must actively support the “pro-life” movement as it is constituted politically in American society today. Indeed, one could well question whether the maternal safeguards so much emphasized in Jewish tradition – especially as interpreted by the more liberal current of the faith – would be sufficiently respected if that position became the law of the land. On the other hand, the “pro-choice” stance is clearly inconsistent with the whole thrust of Jewish tradition, for it is based on a notion of human ownership of the human body, an idea that directly contradicts the Jewish dogma that everything belongs to God–men’s bodies, women’s bodies, anyone’s body (Ezekiel 18:4). Rights over any being, including ourselves, are but limited privileges, Divinely decreed duties must always take precedence in the Jewish tradition.

Admittedly, this outlook contravenes the emotional inclinations and political opinions of many Jews today, especially American Jewish liberals. But in traditional Judaism the Torah takes precedence, irrespective of how few Jews accept its teachings, whether on a specific issue or in general. In the case of abortion, there is little doubt that the inclinations and opinions of may Jews have been strongly influenced by the secular culture in which they live. On the question of abortion, especially, traditional Judaism is countercultural.