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What is Reform Judaism's perspective on abortion?

What is Reform Judaism's perspective on abortion?
Answer By: 
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
woman making a choice between two directions marked by yellow arrows

Reform Judaism understands the original position of the Talmud wherein is described the notion that an abortion should be performed only for the sake of the life of the mother, and even as late as the moment before the head of a baby emerges from the birth canal. However, Reform goes beyond this narrowly defined period and gives sanction to its members (and all others for that matter) to elect to terminate a pregnancy when confronting other circumstances: as a result of rape or incest; when through genetic testing, it is determined that the child to be born will have a disease that will cause death or severe disability, and the parents believe that the impending birth will be an impossible situation for them; and other circumstances.

The Reform perspective on abortion can be described as follows: Abortion is an extremely difficult choice faced by a woman. In all circumstances, it should be her decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, backed up by those whom she trusts (physician, therapist, partner, etc.). This decision should not be taken lightly (abortion should never be used for birth control purposes) and can have life-long ramifications. However, any decision should be left up to the woman within whose body the fetus is growing. Reform Judaism might also say that "pregnancy prevention" is an important value, as well as sexuality education in an appropriate setting and with appropriate materials. It would be infinitely better to prevent teen and other pregnancy through contraception than to face births by teenage parents or others who could not take care of a child.

Topic: Abortion