Abortion and the Sages

At the heart of the abortion issue according to the abortion rights advocates is the
“Fundamental right” of a women to choose to do with her body what she wishes.
Unfortunately the majority of Jews in the western world stand united with this notion of a women’s right to choose. The attempt to unite the abortion issue with a woman and herbody is to assume that she is somehow losing control over her body to someone else. Do the sages of Talmud teach that a woman has the right to control her own body? Every right that is given unto humanity in the Torah or Talmud is given under the assumption of responsibilities and restrictions. In regards to rights I believe that the sages hold two sound beliefs. The first is to recognize that every right given to man is given from G-D. The second is that my neighbor’s rights are given to him from G-D. Rabbi Eliezer spoke “Let the honor of your neighbor be as dear to you as your own.” If I can deny my neighbors rights than mine are forfeit as well. Does a women have the right to do whatever she wishes to her body according to the Torah or the Talmudic sages? This notion is in direct contradiction to the Ezekiel 18:4 and the accepted Jewish doctrine that everything belongs to G-D, even our own bodies. “Rights over any being, even ourselves, are but a limited privileges” –Rabbi David Novak. Modern Orthodox Halakah states that abortion is only a viable option if the life of the Mother is in danger of being forfeit. In that case only does the life of the Mother take precedence over the life of the unborn child. Where two lives are at stake the moral duty is to save the one closest at hand. While there is debate as to when the spirit enters the body, some say at circumcision, some say at the child’s first breath, others say at conception, there is no debate as to the sacredness of the potential for any human life. Throughout the scriptures and various midrashim we find countless examples of the unborn child receiving fully a G-D given spirit that is active and anointed. I do not believe it would be a great leap of faith to assume that the Talmudic sages would be in total opposition to “A woman’s right to choose.” Mishna Tractate Oholos 7:9 clearly outlines that abortion is only an option when saving the life of the Mother. As a general rule Talmud does not assign one person’s life a higher value over another. Once the child’s head is born abortion is no longer an option in any case. I believe it also to be true that the Talmudic sages would likewise have forbidden abortion in the case of rape, incest, or mental retardation of the unborn child on the notion that all human life is sacred and of equal value.

Reb Jimmy Rittenhouse

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