On Abortion, Killing, Murder, Tearing Limbs, Throwing Out Heads, and Personal Responsibility
Dov Fischer
by

You may want to view this movie on your streaming device: Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.

Of course women have the right to determine control of their bodies. No one should touch them without their permission, peck them on the cheek, stroke their hair, lay a shoulder across their arms. And of course no one has the right to kiss them on the lips, thrust a tongue into their mouths (think: Al Franken), grab at their breasts or lower genitalia (think: Cory Booker), or such without their permission.

Women absolutely have absolute right to their bodies.

The dilemma is that, by the way that nature exists, an independent living body sometimes emerges to take both form and life within some women’s bodies. That complicates things. Does a woman have the right to say “Kill this emerging life inside of me, this other body that soon is destined to live completely independently of mine?” For that matter, does a conjoined (“siamese”) twin have the right to pay a doctor or a Mobster to kill the other twin attached to her? On the one hand, the targeted victim is a separate life; on the other hand, that intended victim is interfering with the autonomy of the sister.

There is a difference between “killing” and “murder.” A difference in law, a difference in language. The Ten Pronouncements (wrongly translated as the “Ten Commandments”), for example, bans murder, not killing (lo tirtzach — and not lo taharog). Thus, it is perfectly acceptable and sometimes even righteous pursuant to Biblical theology for soldiers at war to kill the enemy, for regular people to kill attackers. Indeed, that is why the same code of life permits and even commands capital punishment in certain discrete instances. On the other hand, murder always is forbidden.

Where does that leave abortion? Killing? Murder? Or just an internal cleaning, a variant on douching?

The science that did not exist half a century ago at the time of Roe v. Wade now is settled. A fetus is a life at some early point. Secular ethicists, religionists, medical professionals, and jokers alike can debate the moment when life begins, but at some point when that fetus’s heart is beating, its limbs have taken shape, and it is making a significant debut on the ultrasound monitor and within sonograms, fair-minded people acknowledge that it is a life. On the other hand — seriously here— a pregnant woman driving alone in a carpool lane will be ticketed in even the most pro-life state; the traffic court judge will not buy the contention that, with her fetus in the womb, there were two in the car.

For the vast majority of people, the moral dilemma can be avoided in most cases, not all, simply by their exercising personal responsibility. Among other options, one can buy birth control pills, condoms, diaphragms, and spermicide. Outside of instances of rape and certain other outlier instances, there really ought be no need for massive numbers of abortions. A few failed birth-control situations — a faulty condom, mis-applied diaphragm — might account for a few outlier situations, but we would not have millions of abortions in play. Likewise, presumably, the vast majority of those who refuse to use birth control of any kind because of their religious beliefs also would recognize that the same theological mandates ban abortion except in the rarest of situations that their clergy can define for them.

In Orthodox Judaism, for example, there is a general disapproval of casual birth control, but the nuances of legal application make the rules less forbidding than are the Catholic Church’s laws. (Nevertheless, Orthodox Jews are among society’s strongest defenders of the Catholic opposition to Obama’s efforts to force birth-control coverage on them and their institutions.) Likewise, Orthodox Judaism stands unequivocally against abortion-on-demand, although outlier situations are evaluated by rabbinic authorities on case-by-case bases in situations ranging from true danger to the mother’s life (not just “morning sickness”) to other situations tied in with intense psychological or other impact issues that are outside the scope here.

We likewise know that Christians, fundamentalist Protestants, devout Catholics, and others prohibit abortions when they are sought as a surrogate for sexual irresponsibility that derives from being too tired to get up and pull a condom or spermicide from the bathroom cabinet or forgetting to stop at the drug store on the way home to pick up some pills or an alternative product.

We now have states like New York racing to expand their abortion-on-demand laws, in anticipation that the United States Supreme Court soon will revisit Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and overturn all of part of it, finding finally that the opinion was fabricated injudiciously, using hokey reasoning and specious legal precedent to arrive at a politically predetermined conclusion. In a way, the new Cuomo-Gosnell Abortion Law of New York, then, is a socially utilitarian development. It allows the public to realize that Roe v. Wade actually can be overruled without mandating a return to dirty hangers (although the Cuomo-Gosnell Law actually does allow abortions to be perpetrated henceforth by people not medically licensed). When Justice Ginsburg or Breyer steps down and is replaced by a Constitutional Originalist, Roe v. Wade presumably will be aborted on the federal landscape, but states still will be allowed to permit abortions in their jurisdictions if they so please.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 45 million abortions in America since 1970. That is quite a number to absorb. There were approximately 200,000 in 1970, and the number jumped to 763,000 in 1974. It kept rising to 1,429,000 in 1990, and it then started a downward spiral descending to “only” 638,000 in 2015. A simple graphic shows that abortions predominantly have impacted the population numbers of Black and Hispanic America. African-American women are three times as likely as Caucasians to undergo an abortion; Latinas twice as likely. Ironically, Republican conservatives who lead the fight against Roe v. Wade and abortion on demand, who march for life, by now would have been wiped out politically if they had won their battle. Given the propensity of Blacks and Hispanic Americans to vote Democrat Left, and the greater propensity of liberal Caucasian women than their married conservative counterparts to abort, the twenty million or so fetuses aborted between 1970 and 1990 would have become voters by now and very probably would have tilted elections Leftward in several states now and for decades to come. Ironically, it has been the pro-choice movement that has allowed Republican conservatives in America still to enjoy any choice at all come election time, saving the other 49 states from turning into California, which almost-literally has become a one-party state.

In many ways New York’s new Cuomo-Gosnell Abortion Law does not change all that much from what existed before. Rather, the changes seem to be in nuance. Abortion law moves from the penal code to the health code, decriminalizing it. New Yorkers always could get an abortion in the first 24 weeks (almost six months) of pregnancy; they just had to proffer a reason. Now, by contrast, it seems they can buy themselves an abortion during those first two trimesters by right, simply like stepping up to the checkout counter at the grocery with a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. You just order an abortion, pay for it, and the checkout clerk (if outside California) is left to ask: “Paper or plastic?” (In California, the abortion is legal, but the plastic bag or plastic straw may be criminal.) Now Virginia, the state for lovers, seeks to reclaim its historic place as America’s pulse. The state of the First Families of Virginia that enjoyed the clout to move the nation’s capital from the northeast now seeks to out-Gosnell Mr. Cuomo with an abortion law that apparently would allow killing the fetus on the cusp of entering the world after nine months, perhaps even outside the womb. In the words of allegedly moderate Gov. Ralph Northam:

When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way. And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

Emphasis added. Moreover, the Virginia abortion bill’s sponsor, Democrat Kathy Tran, left no mistake regarding her bill’s scope:

Todd Gilbert, the Republican House majority leader, questioned Tran about the bill during a hearing Monday. He asked Tran if a woman who has physical signs she is about to give birth could request an abortion if a physician said it could impair her “mental health.”

“Where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth. She has physical signs that she is about to give birth. Would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so-certified — she’s dilating,” he asked.

“Mr. Chairman, that would be… a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point,” Tran replied.

“I understand that,” Gilbert replied. “I’m asking if your bill allows that.”

Tran replied: “My bill would allow that, yes.”

In such a new legislative framework, it is useful to pause and contemplate how exactly an abortion is done. The word “abortion” is very sterile and gentle. It is a term like a “procedure.” What does an abortion actually entail?

According to Planned Parenthood, an abortion entails simply suctioning the “pregnancy tissue” out of the woman’s body. That sounds OK. At home when we vacuum, sometimes the machine suctions a dirty tissue from the floor. Other pro-choice websites likewise describe suctioning the “pregnancy.” Webmd describes a process of a “suction machine” inserted into the uterus to “clear out its contents.” Very sterile and genteel. The removal of “pregnancy tissue,” suctioning the “pregnancy,” clearing out the “contents.” But what do those nouns — tissue, pregnancy, uterus contents — mean?

Apparently, these new Gosnell laws that New York, Virginia, and other such states are advancing often would entail injecting a potassium compound into a fetus’s heart to stop it from beating. A short time into the pregnancy the fetus head gets too big to extract out of the woman, so it first must be cleared of its “gray matter,” the brain contents. Then the head can be crushed to a more manageable size for extraction, perhaps pulled out by forceps, perhaps by vacuum suction. Suction likewise vacuums out the limbs, the different body parts, the crushed head. As with all suction devices, the vacuuming procedure obviously tears limbs from limbs.

In commenting on the new Cuomo-Gosnell Abortion Law in New York, three national Jewish organizations representing more than one thousand Orthodox rabbis issued statements. the Rabbinical Council of America said this, in pertinent part:

Jewish law opposes abortion, except in cases of danger to the mother. Most authorities consider feticide an act of murder; others deem it an act akin to the murder of potential life. There are Jewish legal scholars who permit, in extenuating circumstances, the abortion of compromised fetuses.

The RCA maintains that “abortion on demand,” even before twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, is forbidden. There is no sanction to permit the abortion of a healthy fetus when the mother’s life is not endangered. The RCA supports that part of the law that permits abortion, even at a late stage, when the mother’s life is at risk.

Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, of blessed memory, a leading expert in Jewish law and mentor to many of rabbis of the RCA, wrote, “from the perspective of the fetus and those concerned with its welfare, liberality in this direction comes at the expense of humanity…”

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, first vice president of the RCA, said, “The removal of any restriction from abortion access and the redefining of the word ‘homicide’ to exclude abortion, indicate a further erosion of the moral values of our society, where killing babies is no longer construed as immoral in any way, even when the fetus has a measure of personhood, actual or potential…”

The Rabbinical Alliance of America said this:

The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud Harabbonim, representing nearly one thousand rabbis serving throughout the United States — congratulates Ben Shapiro for addressing the annual March for Life on January 18, 2019. He stood together with Americans of all faiths to defend the most vulnerable population in this country — the unborn. Jewish law and tradition greatly value the sanctity and preciousness of all human life. This tremendous concern extends even to the unborn child growing inside a mother, despite that such a fetus is not yet being accorded the full status of life given to a living person.

Unfortunately, shortly after this massive show of support for life, New York adopted legislation that devalues life by liberalizing abortion laws in the state. RAA/Igud vigorously opposes this new law, which includes the decriminalization of the destruction of a fetus and which allows for late-term abortions. This law declares abortion a right, in contradiction to basic biblical ethics.…

Leading Torah scholars such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky have publicly called such abortion “murder,” which highlights the seriousness with which we must approach this issue. As with most medical issues, there may be other considerations that enter into the equation that require consultation with a medical professional and a competent rabbi. However, the intentional termination of a fetus should never be done casually as there are two lives at risk — the mother’s and the unborn child’s. Abortion on demand as allowed today in many places in the US is immoral and sinful.

And the Coalition for Jewish Values issued this statement:

“According to this law,” said Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle of the CJV, “late-term abortions may be performed literally until right before birth, even by non-doctors, and not only in order to save the mother’s life but also ‘to protect a patient’s health’ — and even decriminalized illegal abortions. New York State has asserted that a woman’s convenience and whim are more important than the life of another.”

Rabbi Gordimer, who has written extensively on this topic, also pointed to numerous cases where women were attacked specifically due to their pregnancy, with intent to harm or kill her fetus. “The same legislators who have defined entirely new ‘protected classes’ have stripped expectant mothers — and their unborn children — of protection. This is morally indefensible. That they imagine this better for humanity simply boggles the mind.”

“Just weeks ago,” added Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, East Coast Regional Vice President of the CJV, “Israel was shocked when a terrorist shot a young expectant mother in her abdomen, leading to the death of her baby. An entire country mournedfor what New York State would have us believe was a matter of no consequence. Under the guise of progressivism, New York is taking us back to a primitive age when infanticide was also accepted — and the fact that these ‘progressives’ want to take up euthanasia next should surprise no one

It well may be expected that the Left Mediacracy will ignore these statements, instead ferreting within their Left echo chamber to find the George Soros types in the Jewish community, including the ADL that has been taken over by former Obama White House personnel, to create the alternative reality that fosters and advances the Left narrative. But for Jews who actually practice Judaism, who abide by the kosher dietary rules and who observe the Jewish Sabbath as it is constituted, the approach is in sync with that of Christians and fundamentalist Protestants, devout Catholics, and even secular and atheist Americans who cannot countenance poisoning the heart of a fetus to stop its beating, sucking its brains out of its head, crushing its cranium, and vacuuming its arms, legs, and other body parts except in the most extreme of circumstances when the dilemma extends beyond inconvenience and goes to the heart of whether the baby’s exit will murder the mother in the process.

If a society is to be judged by how it protects its most vulnerable, the battlefront for morality and American values will be decided not by whether a wall to secure a porous border is moral but by how the revived abortion debate plays out.

Dov Fischer
Dov Fischer
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Rabbi Dov Fischer, Esq., a high-stakes litigation attorney of more than twenty-five years and an adjunct professor of law of more than fifteen years, is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California. His legal career has included serving as Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerking for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and then litigating at three of America’s most prominent law firms: JonesDay, Akin Gump, and Baker & Hostetler. In his rabbinical career, Rabbi Fischer has served several terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, is Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, has been Vice President of Zionist Organization of America, and has served on regional boards of the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith Hillel, and several others. His writings on contemporary political issues have appeared over the years in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Jerusalem Post, National Review, American Greatness, The Weekly Standard, and in Jewish media in American and in Israel. A winner of an American Jurisprudence Award in Professional Legal Ethics, Rabbi Fischer also is the author of two books, including General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine, which covered the Israeli General’s 1980s landmark libel suit.
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