Judaism and Reproductive Choice
About the Issues:
While the issue of abortion law seems to be the one that is most widely recognized, other issues include choice, women's and human rights, family planning, health, and justice. This topic encompasses the freedom of all people to make healthy and informed decisions, including women and men. Bring these issues to the attention of your campus. Keep up to date with Congress and legislation regarding these issues. Spread the information through facts posters and meetings.
These are controversial issues. To promote awareness and education, try to debate some of the issues on campus. Having a debate open to the campus will spread knowledge and awareness. Some groups which may be interested include the debate and mock trial organizations, college Democrats and Republicans, feminist groups, groups advocating for equality, pro-choice and pro-life groups and conservative groups. Possible debate topics include the so-called “partial-birth abortion” ban and abstinence sex education.
Speakers and Programs
Bring different speakers/groups to campus which educate about these issues or have a message concerning them. You may consider bringing local politicians to campus to talk about the importance of discussing these issues and the influence the public has concerning policy. Many organizations with missions related to reproductive freedom have regional offices. Contact them to see if they have staff willing to speak about these topics. Some organizations you may wish to contact include:
Consider hosting a freedom Shabbat. One Hillel partnered with the Women's Center, the Cross Cultural Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center to put on a special event celebrating Freedom. The idea was to come together as a campus community, emphasizing aspects of freedom that we strive for on campus. Another program you may try is a series of events about the Jewish Perspective on Modern Ethical Issues. The Hillel of Long Island University held interactive workshops to uncover Jewish positions on such issues as sin, premarital sex, abortion, drugs, interfaith marriage, women's equality human cloning, euthanasia, attitudes toward disabilities, etc. Workshops were designed to foster the transmission of Jewish ethical principles and values to Jewish college students and to stimulate awareness and action on campus about ethical issues that are relevant to their lives.
Making a Difference
In Your Community
Join with a community organization in your area that is fighting for choice, women's rights, or other issues you believe in. Remember to do your research! Pick a specific piece of legislation that is important to you and argue for or against it. Your representatives cannot represent you if they do not know where you stand. Tell them! Consider sending a delegation to your local representative's office to encourage him/her to support or reject specific legislation. Lobby with other community and campus organizations! If you cannot go in person, write letters!
Go to Area Public Schools
What is the availability of contraception and sexual education provided to these young adults? What assistance is given to student parents? Are there child care programs provided by the school? Are there classes concerning parenting? If there are changes you want to see made, get a group together and go to a school board meeting. Make your voices heard!
Contact your local Family Planning Clinic
Find out if and when they need volunteers and get an interested group of students together to volunteer. Witness first hand what the local family planning clinic provides. Find out about the issues they face and what legislation they would like to see changed to help their purpose. Lobby on behalf of the needs of this clinic, and the women in your community.
On Your Campus
What is the policy towards birth control and contraception at your school/ health center? Do you agree with this practice? What support is given to students who become pregnant? What support is given to students who have children? What can be done to make it easier to be a parent and a college student? If these questions are relevant to your campus, look into them. Form a group that can go to the Dean or whoever appropriate to request services which may not be currently provided, but may be necessary. Is there a day care on your campus? Remember the importance of advertising whenever you are putting a program together or want to get a group of students together!
What is the Jewish perspective on all of this?
The Reform Movement has long been a strong supporter of reproductive rights for women and men. Several years before Roe v. Wade reached the Supreme Court, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations spoke out, championing the rights of women to safe, legal medical care.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA) cannot endorse a public policy that does not reflect the complex response of halacha (Jewish law) to the abortion issue. In most circumstances the halacha proscribes abortion, but there are cases in which halacha permits and indeed mandates abortion. The question is a sensitive one and UOJCA feels that personal decisions in this area should be made in consultation with recognized halachic authorities.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was founded in 1973 to safeguard the newly won constitutional right to abortion. The Coalition founders were clergy and lay leaders from mainstream religions, many of whom had provided women with referrals to safe abortion services before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade. The founders believed that there would be at most a ten-year struggle to secure the right to choose. In fact the struggle is far from over. It has changed and intensified, and the stakes are growing.
Read about the Jewish perspective on abortion from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs supports a woman's legal right to reproductive choice and to adequately funded family planning programs in the United States and abroad. The JCPA condemns acts of violence directed at those who seek or provide these services.
Weinberg Tzedek Hillel seeks to encourage students to advocate on behalf of their beliefs and for social justice. The views held by the organizations mentioned are not necessarily those held by Weinberg Tzedek Hillel or Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.