Volume 65 Number 49 
      Produced: Fri, 01 Jul 22 03:38:53 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Abortion (2)
    [Leah Gordon  Martin Stern]
Definition of "Observant Jews" 
    [Prof. L. Levine]
Looking out the window, but not in the mirror 
    [Carl Singer]
Observant Jewish (Women), Beis Yaakov, and Sex Education 
    [Perets Mett]
RCA Statement (was Abortion) 
    [Joseph Kaplan]
With benefit of hindsight 
    [Susan Kane]


From: Leah Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 29,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Abortion

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 65#47):

> I should point out that states that limit abortions usually give an
> exception for the health of the mother.

I'd like to point out that "usually" is not really good enough if you are
the person dying. It's not clear to me why some men on MJ are content to figure
that "usually" things will be more or less OK.  The right number of women to die
from abortion laws would be ZERO.  If that means that there should not be
abortion laws (as is the case in Canada, where abortion is handled like any
other healthcare decision), then so be it.

> An ectopic pregnancy would normally not be considered a viable pregnancy.

Correction:  an ectopic pregnancy is NEVER considered a viable pregnancy
and ALWAYS results in the death of the mother if not treated.  (The choice
would be either the fetus plus mother die, or the fetus dies.  No other
option.)  This has not stopped the idiots in Ohio's legislature from ruling
that the ectopic fetus should be "transplanted".  When politicians decide
medicine, disaster results.

> It is usually discovered well before the limit for a legal abortion.

Hillel seems pretty confident about this, but it is patently false.  First
of all, there are a couple of states that have banned "all abortions".
Second, again with the "usually" (not ok!).  Third, Hillel may have an
inflated view of how easy it is for women to access healthcare - whether it
is to determine pregnancy, to determine ectopic pregnancy, or to get a
needed abortion.

> Similarly, a miscarriage is the death of the child while in the womb by
> natural causes.

I think we all know what a miscarriage is.  Also, stop calling a fetus a
"child"; it's transparent politicking.  It has already happened that
hospitals/doctors have turned away women who were bleeding out from
miscarriages and needed a D&C to remove the rest of the blood/etc. to avoid
hemorrhage.  It has also already happened that third parties have tried to
earn bounties by "reporting" miscarrying women who came for medical help.

Separately, it has already happened that women with cancer were denied
chemotherapy when they accidentally became pregnant.  That is an obvious
violation of halakha.

> This would not involve an abortion which is causing the death of the child
> while in the womb by the physician.

Again, not a "child".

I also have a concern about how abortion is being described on MJ.  Men are
pontificating as though women are some theoretical construct who may or may not
be OK, but in most cases, might have this or that workaround.  Let me remind
everyone that women are human beings.  No woman's life should be endangered by a
pregnancy when that could be stopped.  If I cannot appeal to human empathy when
I make that statement, I should at least be able to appeal to the halakha.

Those who mistakenly refer to a fetus (kal v'chomer a first-month blastocyst) as
a "child" or a "baby" are not fooling anyone.  The human being in this case who
needs to be saved is the mother.  The lack of empathy to your Jewish sisters is
astounding to me.

And a comment on "go to where abortion is legal".  This could be hundreds of
miles away or more, depending on where someone lives in the United States.  And
what happens if it is too late?  What happens if the abortion bans embolden
doctors to refuse care, or scare doctors away from helping women in case some
third party decides to "report" out of spite?  What happens if she can't afford
to travel?  What happens if she needs childcare for her kids or her husband
doesn't let her travel or she has to be at work or else be fired?  What happens
if a federal law is imposed, and there's  not a place to go?

As to "get an illegal abortion," what does that mean to you who suggest it as a
meaningful alternative, since apparently back alley abortions are against halakha?

People on MJ complain if they have to travel more than 100 miles for kosher
groceries.  I can't understand the callous attitude toward a sick woman.

Here's a thought experiment:  suppose some states prohibited circumcision on
Christian religious grounds.  How happy would all of you be with the following

"Well, most babies born are girls so it's not usually going to be a problem."

"Just do an illegal bris and face the consequences."

"Just go travel somewhere that it's legal."

"When it's justified medically you'll have no problem getting permission."

"It's worth it to prevent harm even if a few boys don't get circumcised."

"Mostly, this applies to B'nai Noach so do we really have a right to make a

"A fringe rabbi came out with an essay welcoming this change because he believes
that circumcision is wrong, even though this is not what most other rabbis of
his denomination think."

...and circumcision isn't even life-saving.

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 30,2022 at 06:17 AM
Subject: Abortion

R E Sternglantz wrote (MJ 65#48):

> Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 65#47):

> [In response to R. E. Sternglantz (MJ 65#45)]

>> I should point out that states that limit abortions usually give an exception
>> for the health of the mother. An ectopic pregnancy would normally not be
>> considered a viable pregnancy. It is usually discovered well before the limit
>> for a legal abortion. Similarly, a miscarriage is the death of the child
>> while in the womb by natural causes. This would not involve an abortion which
>> is causing the death of the child while in the womb by the physician.
> Most well-meaning people who are not civil rights lawyers or doctors or
> otherwise closely following this issue understandably believe that if an
> abortion ban has an exception for the health of the mother, it will not have
> any affect on anyone except those who seek to voluntarily terminate a viable
> pregnancy. This is not the case.
> Doctors in jurisdictions with abortion bans with exceptions for the life of
> the mother have in practice been known to withhold care until the woman is at
> the point of dying if she doesn't get care, eg, after the Fallopian tube has
> ruptured, after the uterus is septic ...

If this is correct, it is very worrying since it means that such doctors are
essentially subverting the law. If this is because of their fear that their
clinical judgement will be challenged by non-medically qualified persons, it is
imperative that they be legally protected.

Unfortunately, even under the legal arrangements prior to the overturning of Roe
vs Wade, many doctors effectively operated an "abortion on demand" service
rather than "abortion when necessary" but this was not challenged. This
expansion of its availability to what many considered frivolous cases underlies
much of the opposition to the status quo ante regime even outside pro-life
activist circles. It seems almost impossible to frame laws so that 'legitimate'
abortions (however one may define them) may be available and 'non-legitimate'
ones banned.

> I would add that banning abortions after six weeks also does not mean what
> many people think it means. Those six weeks are not counted from conception
> (at least in the US). They're counted from the first day of the woman's last
> menstrual period. So it's more like 3-4 weeks from conception. Ectopic
> pregnancy is often not confirmed until slightly later in the first trimester.

This seems relatively easy to correct with good will on both sides (which is in
short supply).

Martin Stern


From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 30,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Definition of "Observant Jews"

A wise man once said, "There are three things in this world, the things you
think you say, the things others think you say, and what you really say."

Haim Snyder wrote (MJ 65#48):

"Yitzchok Levine (MJ 65#46) twice implicitly defines "Observant Jews" as having
studied at either a yeshiva or Beis Yaakov. Personally, I take affront at that

MS Leah Gordon (MJ 65#48) wrote:

"OK so here's my point:  "observant" does not equal "Beis Yaakov" - that's the
sneaky part.  I'm an observant Jewish woman and I already posted about what
makes me happy."

I clearly was not careful in what I wrote about who is an observant woman or
man. When I wrote it, I had in mind my eldest granddaughter, Leeba, who is the
mother of two of my wonderful great grandchildren, and who went the route of
Bais Yaakov and then seminary.

I should have written "An example of an observant women is .."

I apologize for my imprecise language and for having given an incorrect
impression of whom I consider being observant. One need not attend Bais Yaakov
or learn in yeshiva to be an observant Jew.

The truth is that I never attended yeshiva, and I consider myself observant Jew!

Professor Yitzchok Levine


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 30,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Looking out the window, but not in the mirror

Reviewing the last few months of Mail Jewish, and perhaps even further back, we
seem to spend significant energy examining others:

Men discussing women.

"Orthodox" discussing Reform.

Yeshivish discussing Chassidim.

Are all the mirrors broken?

Carl Singer


From: Perets Mett <pmett99@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 30,2022 at 05:17 AM
Subject: Observant Jewish (Women), Beis Yaakov, and Sex Education

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 65#48):

> However, it has been shown repeatedly that municipalities with comprehensive sex
> education have lower incidence of unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted
> disease, and abortion.

Since no figures have been provided we cannot really say whether this statement
is or is not true.

But, if someone would like to publish the figures for three neighbouring
municipalities in Gush Dan: Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak, then we could
form a judgment on the issue

Perets Mett


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 30,2022 at 11:17 AM
Subject: RCA Statement (was Abortion)

Chaim Casper posted (MJ 65#48) the RCA Statement on the Dobbs ruling overturning
Roe v. Wade. In a critical part it states:  
> it is our belief that state legislation must protect the right to receive
> abortions for those permitted by Jewish law.

Very nice. My interpretation: American law should follow Halacha and no other
moral value should be considered. As long as our community is protected we don't
care about anyone else. Other religions look at the complex area of abortion and
come to different conclusions but we don't really care. 

Of course, that's how theocracies works, not the American democratic, separation
of church and state system. 

But even so, I wonder what they mean by Jewish law. Rav Moshe or the Seridei
Eish? The Rambam or those who disagree with him? There are many different
nuanced opinions among poskim as to what is permitted under Jewish law. And the
RCA wants state legislatures to choose between them. Really? 

And that's why thoughtful rabbinic poskim when speaking publicly about abortion
don't discuss hard and fast rules because each case is different and so many
factors must be considered, including the particular circumstances of the family
involved, that they decide on a case by case basis. And the RCA thinks this
system, which may work within the halacha observing community, can be adopted
into  secular law which has a rule of void for vagueness. (I leave aside the
issue that halacha treats Jews and non-Jews differently concerning abortion
which, of course, raises a whole slew of additional problems in adapting Jewish
law in secular law.)

Personally, I'm deeply ashamed of my community's leadership. 



From: Susan Kane <adarconsulting@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 29,2022 at 09:17 PM
Subject: With benefit of hindsight

I"d like to thank Martin Stern (MJ 65#47) for much more clearly describing the
mindset of most Jews in Germany in 1933. I am actually aware of this context and
I would not have wanted my comments to be taken out of it. In 1933, very few
people - except perhaps the Communists - took Hilter's full program as laid
out in his writings seriously.   In this particular case, the Communists
happened to be right.

The error the Agudah made in 1933 was one that is still common today and one
that I myself have to guard against, running as I do in much more liberal
circles than most observant Jews. It's the error of saying "we are not like
THOSE JEWS you rightly dislike - we are DIFFERENT, we are LIKE YOU". We know
from our own long history that this method of appeasing anti-Semites has never

If you read the Agudah's amicus briefs and their public testimony (they do MUCH
MORE than provide guidance to the religious public), they are very clearly
saying to conservative Christians - we ALSO cherish life - we are LIKE YOU.

The clear implication that most American Jews - who overwhelmingly support Roe -
do NOT cherish life, when in fact, we cherish the life of the mother so highly
that we seek to protect it.  We cherish secular democracy - which protects Jews
- so highly that we do not want Christian theology to become law.

The laws being proposed and now enacted WILL prevent Jewish women from following
halacha. Research them - their exemptions are NOT sufficient to protect both
life and health. On that score alone, the Agudah has made a serious error in
opposing Roe.

And for what purpose and to what end?  If their ultimate goal is to force Bnai
Noach not to abort, why do they state we have no desire to force our religion on
others?  Why do they publicly and openly lie?  Let them come forward and tell
the world:  We believe Jewish women's lives should have more protection than
yours, but we are willing to risk even the lives of our own women for a chance
to allow the secular state to impose Jewish law on non-Jews.

Of course, they can advocate. Of course, I'm not going to agree with them on
many issues. But school vouchers and differences related to church/state balance
do not directly advance a Christian government in a way that endangers peoples
lives. This does.

Now we know we should take ultimate aims of political parties, social movements,
activist groups, and authoritarians SERIOUSLY. It is no longer 1933.   So what
is their excuse?

Susan Kane
Silver Spring, MD


End of Volume 65 Issue 49