When broaching the topic of abortion, opinions span a diverse and impassioned spectrum. Yet, within Judaism, the traditional stance doesn’t wholly align with any extremist viewpoint. Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, a radiologist at the Albert Einstein Medical Center and a professor at Thomas Jefferson University, guides us through the complexities of this topic within the Jewish context.
Judaism’s Delicate Balance on Abortion: Insights by Dr. Daniel Eisenberg
Contrary to popular belief, Jewish law, or halakhah, doesn’t view the fetus merely as an extension of the mother’s body. It’s imperative to understand how halakhah perceives the fetus: not as a full human being but also not as something inconsequential.
Generally, causing deliberate harm is forbidden, and any provoked abortion — whether intentional or accidental — carries consequences.
The debate within Jewish tradition isn’t centered on whether abortion is morally right or wrong. Some rabbis believe it isn’t a capital crime because the Torah mandates monetary compensation for accidental abortion. Others interpret this as merely an indication that there isn’t a death penalty, but it remains a form of murder. What’s unanimous is the belief that a fetus becomes a human being, and only under extreme circumstances is abortion allowed.
Judaism’s Views on Abortion: Assessing Physical and Psychological Risks
One of the few justifications for abortion in Judaism is when the mother’s life is directly endangered by continuing the pregnancy or giving birth.
In such instances, the fetus is regarded as a “pursuer”, an entity threatening the mother’s life. But there are boundaries. If the fetus is partially delivered during childbirth, abortion is no longer permissible because both lives hold equal value.
The evaluation isn’t restricted to physical threats; psychological and emotional factors are also weighed.
If a woman is at risk of self-harm or suicide due to the pregnancy, abortion can be justified. However, some rabbis argue that with appropriate treatment, these psychological risks can be alleviated, rendering abortion unnecessary.
Jewish Debates on Abortion: Fetal Abnormalities and Pregnancies from Forbidden Relationships
Malformations and Special Cases
A deeply debated area is when fetal abnormalities are detected. While prominent rabbis, like Rav Moshe Feinstein, disapprove of abortion in such scenarios, there are notable exceptions like Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, who allows abortion under certain circumstances.
In cases of pregnancies resulting from forbidden relationships, such as rape or adultery, the debate revolves around the emotional impact on the mother. Every situation is distinct, and decisions are based on an intricate blend of delicate factors.
The Jewish Stance on Abortion: Balancing Humanity in Complex Decisions
There isn’t a singular Jewish answer to abortion. As Dr. Eisenberg emphasizes, each situation is unique, and it’s always crucial to consult a Halakhah authority when grappling with this dilemma.
With a focus on humanity and a deep understanding of life, the Jewish perspective offers a balanced and thoughtful view on such a polarizing issue.
We extend our gratitude to Dr. Daniel Eisenberg from the Department of Radiology at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pasadena, and as an Advisory Professor at Thomas Jefferson University, for his invaluable input in this article. The information was sourced from aishlatino.com.