Jewish communities react to the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, which could violate their First Amendment rights

  • A leaked opinion shows the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.

  • The Jewish faith allows abortion and even requires it if the health of the mother is at risk.

  • Jewish organizations say restricting abortion access would violate their religious freedoms.

As the country responds to a leaked Supreme Court opinion that indicated the sitting justices are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, Jewish organizations say a possible ban on abortion would violate their First Amendment rights.

"I think for too long, we've allowed a small group of loud voices from the religious right to dictate the narrative in this country about faith and abortion, but it is simply not true. People of faith support abortion access and people of faith support compassionate healthcare laws," Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, told Insider. "And in this case, it would be a violation of our religious freedom to not have access to abortion."

On May 2, Politico published a leaked opinion written by Justice Alito indicating the Supreme Court may be prepared to overturn the federal right to an abortion without undue government interference established by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

If the justices ultimately overturn Roe, at least 12 states will immediately impose near-total bans on abortion.

Supporters say an abortion ban would protect unborn children, a belief largely shaped by Christian religious views which claim life begins at conception. For Jews and others who don't share the religious view that life begins at conception, a total abortion ban may not only prevent access to necessary medical care but also violates religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to practice one's faith without government intervention.

"We are proud that Jewish tradition regards abortion as essential health care, not only permitting the termination of pregnancy, but even requiring it when the life of the pregnant person is in danger," Rabbi Hera Person said in a statement following the Supreme Court leak. "Restricting access to reproductive health care impedes the freedom of religion granted by the First Amendment, including a Jewish person's ability to make decisions in accordance with their religious beliefs."

Katz added that Jews "feel really strongly about reproductive freedoms." To them, abortion falls at the cross-section of economic justice, racial justice, healthcare access, and religious freedom, she said.

"So in the Jewish community, all of those issue areas are deeply Jewish for many different reasons, but the notion that the Supreme Court might dictate when life begins according to only one religious tradition is deeply problematic and concerning to us," Katz told Insider, adding that she was "devastated, outraged, and sad" about the possible overturning of Roe.

83% of Jewish people believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, compared to 61% of the total US population. A full 70% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research do not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

While the Court emphasized that the leak does not represent the final decision in the case, Katz said the NCJW is "exploring every possibility of what it looks like for us to fight back against" the leaked opinion on the grounds of religious freedom.

"We've known that this is a real possibility that Roe v. Wade is getting overturned, but seeing it in writing made it all the more real. And for us, for the National Council of Jewish Women, just one person being forced to be pregnant is one person too many," Katz told Insider.

"Our moral values compel us to ensure that people aren't forced to be pregnant or forced to give birth."

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