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May 21, 2004 - Image 74

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-05-21

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The Wrong Choice

Choosing Choice

unday, April 25, 2004, 7 a.m.: I
wasn't leaving my house to get
bagels or work out. I and six
other Bloomfield Township
women had accepted Diane Orley's invi-
tation to March for Women's Lives in
Washington, D.C.
In the car on the way to the airport,
we got acquainted. On the plane, we
bonded. By the end of
the day, we were sis-
ters. We marched; we
made history. We
made a difference.
The March for
Women's Lives was
the first large-scale
abortion demonstra-
tion in 12 years. It was
a necessary response to
President Bush's con-
tinued anti-women
stance and ideological
agenda on choice and family planning
programs at home and abroad.
One in our group, Betsy Appleton,
arrived in Washington early 9n April 23.
She and her sister had the opportunity
to experience the organization of the
march, helping NARAL (National
Abortion Rights Action League) staple
signs together for the Michigan delega-
tion. "We felt not just supportive, but
productive,” Betsy said. Betsy joined her
sister in marching because, she
explained, "Each person must stand up
and be counted against the Bush admin-
istration's religious, fundamentalist inter-
Nancy Hodari felt initial anxiety
about the march, predicting that she
would see "the same faces, only 30 years
older," from past marches in which she
had participated. "I have never felt such
satisfaction from being wrong," Nancy
"It was energizing to see so many
young people and large groups of
minorities organized by schools, univer-
sities, clubs and other coalitions."
We arrived at the mall and joined over
a million others who shared our com-
mitment to free choice, worldwide
access to reproductive health care,
worldwide access to birth control and
worldwide education about women's
health issues.
Men and women, young and old, of
every race and origin congregated wear-
ing shirts festooned with stickers and

Lisa Kirsch Satawa is a Bloomfield

Township resident.




buttons and carrying signs. "Question
New York City
Authority," read the sign of a 5-year-old
undreds of thousands of
perched on her dad's shoulders. "Post-
demonstrators flocked to
Menopausal Woman Nostalgic for
Washington, D.C., on
Choice," read another.
April 25 for a rally in sup-
We saw groups from Michigan,
port of leg-al abortion. Thousands of the
including Hadassah and the Reform
participants attended as members of an
synagogues. There were so many people
assortment of Jewish organizations. And
with so many ways to tell the world that
many of those Jewish participants nur-
these issues need attention — we lis-
tured a deep conviction that their stance
tened to Gloria Steinem,
expressed a deeply
Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Jewish value. They
Julianne Moore, Whoopi
were wrong.
Goldberg, Cybil Shepard
To be sure, the
and many not-so-famous
Taking sides on the view that the secular
students and leaders from
law of the United
right to choose.
around the world.
States should reflect
"I can't even begin to
religious attitudes
toward abortion is
certainly open to
reasonable debate.
But what ought not
be open to debate is
Judaism's essentially
negative attitude
toward the issue.
The assertion that
maintaining an
essentially unfettered
right to feticide —
the upshot of Roe vs.
Wade — is some-
how a Jewish imper-
Local marchers (front row) Nancy Hodari, Jan Frank, Betsy
ative (or, for that
Appleton, (back row) Hilary Isakow, Lisa Kirsch Satawa,
matter, in any way
Diane Orley, Marilyn Madorsky, Debbie Colman.
in consonance with
Jewish tradition)
describe what an unbelievable experience
wildly distorts the truth. Because the
it was for me," said Debbie Colman. "I
abortion issue is not only about rights
wanted to show my two daughters the
but about right — as in "right and
importance of freedom of choice."
wrong." And, while Judaism has little to
Diane Orley, who originated the idea
say about rights — it speaks rather
of this group's participation, was similar-
about duties and obligations — it has
ly motivated. She marched to protect
much to say about right.
her children's rights. "We must continue
Take the procedure whose outlawing
to make our voices heard," she urged.
was a major stimulus for the recent
Hilary Isakow had a different perspec-
rally. Despite the intense and concerted
tive. She grew up in South Africa under
efforts of some to misrepresent the law
apartheid. Rights were afforded only to a
prohibiting "partial-birth abortion," its
small part of the population and opposi-
language is stark and clear. It prohibits
tion to the government was vigorously
any overt act "that the person knows
punished. "When I became an
will kill" a fetus whose "entire ... head is
American citizen," she said, "I under-
outside the body of the mother, or, in
stood the importance of voting and the
the case of breech presentation, any part
right to voice opposition without fear.
of the fetal trunk past the navel is out-
The laws for freedom of reproductive
side the body of the mother."
choice have slowly been eroded by the
There is no possible way to square a
current administration, and I felt by
"right" to perform such an act — which
marching, I did a small part to make my
Avi Shafran is director of public
voice heard."
affairs for Agudath Israel of America.
"Ours is the first generation which
This article originally appeared in the
took choice for granted," said Jan Frank.

Forward. His e-mail address is

is little if anything short of infanticide
— with Jewish law or Jewish tradition's
reverence for even a single life.
As to the larger issue of abortion as it
is more commonly performed, while
Talmudic sources are clear that the life
of a pregnancy-endangered Jewish
mother takes precedence over that of
her unborn child, that is so only when
there is no way to preserve both lives.
Admittedly —
although the matter is
hardly free of contro-
versy — there are
respected rabbinic
opinions that permit
abortion when the
pregnancy seriously
jeopardizes the mother's
health. But those nar-
row exceptions in no
way translate into some
unlimited mother's
"right" to make whatever "choice" she
may see fit about the life of the child
she carries.
And yet a special "Roe Reaches 30"
supplement to Hadassah magazine's
summer 2003 issue quotes unnamed
"authorities" to maintain that Jewish
law "implicitly assumes that a woman
has the right to make her own repro-
ductive choices." The supplement's
"Jewish Law" section goes on to claim
that "restricting access to reproductive
services ... undermines basic tenets of
Those assertions in no way reflect
accepted — or even seriously enter-
tained — rabbinic opinion. If anything
undermines basic tenets of Judaism, it is
the notion that the Torah allows unfet-
tered "access to reproductive services"
— i.e. Roe vs. Wade-style abortion-on-
It is undeniable: Judaism values life
and potential life as well. Nothing
could be more profoundly un-Jewish
than maintaining that a woman has
the "right" to make "personal choices"
at the expense of a developing life.
The image of Jews en masse embrac-
ing social, cultural or political move-
ments as "Jewish" is nothing new Fairly
recent times saw a considerable number
of Jewish men and women proudly
bearing the banner of socialism and
even communism as the very embodi-
ments of the Jewish prophets' words.
Others today tout democracy or capi-
talism as quintessential expressions of
Torah-truth. And many were the "isms"

shafran@amechad. corn

SHAFRAN on page 75

' OA

SATAWA on page 75

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