The only voices I hear in the abortion debate are conservative or evangelical Christians and secular feminists. I was shocked when I heard Professor Shai Cherry of Vanderbilt University state that “Jewish law requires abortion when the woman’s life or health—physical or mental—is threatened by the pregnancy; Jewish law permits abortion when the risk to the woman’s life or health (again, physical or mental) is greater than that of a normal pregnancy but not so great as to constitute a clear and present danger to her” (from Rabbi Elliot Dorff [Conservative], Matters of Life and Death, as quoted by Shai Cherry in the Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism guidebook). Professor Cherry when on to quote the Oholot Mishnah 7:6 which states “If a woman is having difficulty in labor, one cuts up the fetus within her womb and extracts it limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over that of the fetus” (Shai Cherry in the Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism guidebook). I have never heard any one from the Abrahamic traditions express such compassion for women. It brought tears to my eyes.
Christians legislators add exceptions for the life of the mother reluctantly and only because they fear that without those exceptions their laws will be vetoed or declared unconstitutional. I only hear Christians talking about the “rights” of the unborn, but nothing about the suffering of the women on whose life the unborn depend. It is as if the potential life of an embryo/fetus is more valued by Christians, then the actual life of a woman. I would like to hear more about what non-Christian traditions, such as Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu Jain, Native American, pagan, humanist, etc. have to say on the moral and spiritual questions of abortion.
I had an abortion when I was 19 (I am now 38). I regret getting pregnant, but I don't regret having an abortion. I was raised Catholic, but I have always had eclectic views about religion and spirituality. I am not a Christian. At the time of my abortion and now, I feel that if humans have an immortal soul that to be reincarnated is it's likely fate. The unborn child, the embryo, which I aborted did not suffer; it's soul, if it had one, went back from which it came perhaps to be reborn or perhaps to drift into the nothingness which then we all are bound. I was not mentally or physically prepared to have a child.
No one wants to get an abortion, ever. I wish the two sides of the abortion “wars” could make peace and work together so that no one needs to “choose”. While abstinence certainly can be a wonderful thing, the sex drive is real, is powerful and is not going away; so to prevent abortion, we need comprehensive sex education, affordable and available contraceptives, as well as help (health insurance, financial assistance) for low-income mothers and families since poverty is a big factor in many women's decisions to have an abortion. I do want abortion to be safe and legal, but I also don't want anyone to need an abortion.
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