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

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



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