The Bible Says What?! Thou shalt not kill – but what about abortion?

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What?! Thou shalt not kill – but what about abortion?

Rabbi Miriam Berger reflects on scripture's problematic stance on a modern topical issue

“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



Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: