TBD Youth - Thoughts on Reproductive RIghts

Two weeks ago 10 teenagers from Temple Beth David went to Washington D.C. to learn about various political issues and lobby on behalf of those issues. For the next few weeks I will be including the speeches the students delivered to our representatives and Senators. What follows is the presentation Sara DePonte, Junior, and Micayla Nann, Sophomore, in partnership with other students from Glastonbury CT, made to Senator Murphy. The views that follow are those of the Religious Action Center, the political advocacy wing of the Reform movement, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Temple Beth David

Hi! My name is Sara DePonte, I live in Middlefield, CT and I attend Coginchaug Regional High School in Durham. I am here from Temple Beth David in Cheshire. I have co written this speech with Micayla Nann from Temple Beth David and [youth from] Congregation Kol Haverim in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Thank you so much for meeting with me. I am here as a part of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and I would like to thank Representative DeLauro for cosponsoring H.R.1692, the EACH Woman Act, or the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act. This would repeal the Hyde Amendment, guaranteeing that every person who receives care or insurance through a federal plan or program has access and coverage for abortions.

Americans have had the constitutional right to abortion since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. However, since Roe v. Wade, many policies been passed restricting access to abortion, including gestational limits and TRAP laws. One of the oldest and most harmful of these restrictions is the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from going toward abortion services. This greatly affects individuals who rely on federal health care such as Medicaid as well as Americans in the armed forces. These such bans are difficult for those struggling to make ends meet and those who face systemic barriers to getting health care-- mainly low income people, people of color, immigrants, and young people. That means for the most part, these individuals do not have the right to choose that was guaranteed to them by Roe v. Wade.

In Judaism, life is sacred. Individuals are commanded to care for the health and well-being of their bodies above all else. The Reform Jewish movement, specifically, has long supported an individual’s rights to make decisions about their reproductive health. In the era before Roe v. Wade, the Reform Movement cited a “moral imperative to modernize abortion legislation,” also laying focus on the unnecessary and tragic losses of mothers from the dangerous and illegal abortions that were taking place. Roe v Wade was revered by the Reform community for not only protecting lives but for also safeguarding civil liberties. The belief that people are capable of making their own moral decisions coincides with the belief that a doctor’s decision should not be interfered with by the banning of potentially life-saving medical procedures that they deem necessary. In Reform Judaism the focus is on protecting the existing life rather than the potential life. Mishnah Ohalot 7:6 forbids a woman from sacrificing her own life for that of the fetus, and if her life is threatened, the test permits her no other option but abortion, “If a woman’s labor becomes life-threatening, the one to be born is dismembered in her abdomen…for her life comes before the life of the fetus.” At first glance this passage seems rather frank, but once you consider the language, the emotion comes through. This passage in no way suggests that this is an easy task. The word “dismembering” alone provides the image of a difficult and grueling process, which is an accurate description for this topic considering this is not a decision to be taken lightly. This situation not only threatens the mothers physical health but also her mental health. The verse in Deuteronomy 4:15, “You shall indeed guard your souls,” is interpreted as protecting any aspect of your health. The mother’s soul is to be protected, the soul encompasses the physical and mental wellbeing of the mother. The mother is tasked to make the difficult decision about what would be best for her. In the end, the Reform Jewish movement supports the decision the mother makes that best protects her wellbeing, health, and soul…

I thank you for your support thus far in this Act and I ask for your continued support in favor of the EACH Woman Act. This bill would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, guaranteeing that every person who receives care or insurance through a federal plan or program will have coverage for abortion. Through the Hyde Amendment federal funds can only be used under the circumstances of rape, incest, or the endangerment of the mother, which means for the most part low-income individuals are denied the right to choose that was supposed to be guaranteed by the case of Roe v. Wade. I thank you for your cosponsoring and I aks for your continued support in aiding these women by supporting the EACH Woman Act (H.R. 1692). We all truly do need your support. Again thank you so much for meeting with me.