“Thou shalt not kill” isn’t a controversial mitzvah until it is used as a proof text to forbid abortion.
The termination of an unwanted pregnancy is never something taken lightly, but by Israeli law, unless circumstances conform to a very specific set of criteria, the woman in question has to be interviewed by a panel of professionals to decide whether a termination is permitted.
Women allege the process to be invasive and humiliating.
Member of the Knesset Rabbi Yehudah Glick, as well as Muslim MK Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahka have asked the Israeli parliament to discuss putting a member of clergy on the panel representing the religion of the woman in question.
Their request suggests this medical procedure is of a religious nature and does not take into account whether the woman herself feels this is a matter which she values a religious response to.
The Jewish view on abortion can be interpreted most liberally as it asserts that the existing life – that of the mother, has to take priority over the potential life – that of the developing foetus.
The scope for different rulings appeals to what an individual rabbi would view as the potential threat to the woman’s well-being of having to carry to term and bring up the child.
An unwanted pregnancy as a result of abuse, for instance, could result in severe physiological distress for the mother, though may not pose any physical threat.
As a rabbI, I see my role when it comes to the question of abortion as one of pastoral support and not as an arbiter of halacha.
I take very seriously the value of human life and see Divinity in every successful pregnancy, but I value a society in which people make informed decisions for themselves and interpretations of Halacha need a vote, not a veto.
Rabbi Miriam Berger is rabbi of Finchley Reform Synagogue