A Jewish take on late-term abortion and Roe v. Wade

As the Dobbs decision day approaches and the plethora of Roe defenses abound in press, social media, and religious circles, let us take a few minutes to explore certain realities about that much-referenced exception to preserving innocent life in Judaism: to save the life of the mother.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) recently published a video and a lengthy article about the medical response to pregnancy that threatens the mother's life.  We would all benefit from learning from these qualified, experienced doctors.

We've been told for years that torturing an unborn child to death is necessary in these rare situations, which occur in the second and third trimesters.  Not true, according to the experts at AAPLOG, who declare that it is not necessary to barbarically poison or dismember a baby in the womb to save the mother's life.  Rather, it is medically and morally preferable to humanely remove the baby from the uterus by cesarean section.  The baby can be saved if he is viable by placing him in neonatal intensive care.  If the baby is not viable and allowed to pass peacefully, a dignified burial and a normal grieving period follow.  In truly life-threatening situations, the mother's life is saved quickly by cesarean section delivery, rather than risking her life awaiting the two to three days of preparation required for an abortion, during which time her life-threatening illness may cause her death.

Late-term brutal dismemberment of an unborn child is, of course, fatal for the baby, and very dangerous for the mother because of the possibility of the abortionist rupturing the uterus as the baby's parts are severed limb by limb.  If the mother survives the hemorrhaging and infection resulting from the perforation of the uterus, infertility often results.  Many mothers experience long-term night terrors about the demise of their children, and remorse and gut-wrenching guilt knowing that their babies were tortured to death.  If the baby is nearly full-term, the abortionist injects lethal drugs into the heart or brain before delivering the infant whole — or delivers the baby alive to profit from very lucrative organ-harvesting sales.

No informed rabbi would authorize the torturous death of an innocent, pain-capable infant when the baby can be easily saved.  No informed rabbi would allow a fully formed infant to be born alive and dissected while still breathing.  No informed rabbi would put a woman in danger when a safe alternative is available. Every mother wants her baby to be safe if possible.  We encourage and facilitate Jewish adoption for vulnerable infants who need loving homes.  We offer Teshuvah-based healing for mothers who suffer after terminating a pregnancy.

Regarding Roe, let us take another minute to recognize that every statewide legislative effort to limit torturing unborn children to death for profit allows provisions to save the mother's life, and some of these, as determined by several doctors, may be quite as liberal as rabbinical determinations.  The surgical removal of an ectopic pregnancy is also permitted under these provisions.

Rabbinical determinations that take these realities into account save lives; promote healthy families and communities; and present a life-affirming, moral view of Judaism to the world.  Let us encourage our rabbis to recommend saving both mother and child, if possible, in the exceptional cases rather than assume the moral liability that comes with authorizing the barbaric torture and death of an innocent child and the predictable harm to the mother.

Cecily Routman is president of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation.

Image: Nogwater via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped).

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