In Shifra’s Arms is a Jewish crisis pregnancy group that recently gained national attention after a Religion News Service story about it appeared in various news media. Leora Cohen-Rosenberg, who wrote this response, is an intern with RCRC from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
As a Reform Jew, I find it hard to believe that an organization like In
Shifra’s Arms exists.
In Shifra’s Arms (ISA) is a Jewish crisis pregnancy group; it is the only known one of its kind. ISA encourages pregnant women who are considering abortion to choose an alternative. It stresses adoption as an option and offers services to women deciding to keep their child. Like similar centers, ISA does not give out any information regarding abortion. It is odd to me that this type of center, usually provided to women based on Christian values, would use Judaism as its foundation for existence.
The only text in the Hebrew Bible that comes close to mentioning abortion is in Exodus 21:22-25:
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm [to the woman], then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
The implication is that if a woman has a miscarriage after being hurt by a man, that man owes her husband monetary compensation. If that man kills the pregnant woman, he is only punished for her death, not the death of the potential child. In Judaism, we believe that a fetus is only a potential life until it is born, when it becomes a full life.
Judaism trusts women to make the difficult decision of whether to choose abortion or not. ISA seems to be working under the impression that abortion should be the very last thing on a pregnant Jewish woman’s mind and should be avoided at all costs. In Jewish teachings, if the pregnancy is causing a woman harm, be it physical or psychological, the woman’s health always takes precedence. All movements of Judaism believe this to be true. We are not pro-abortion but we strongly believe that a woman is fully capable of deciding whether continuing with her pregnancy would cause any damage to her body or her psyche. ISA does not mention these values anywhere on its website; they are not working under Jewish teachings. In their minds, abortion should be taken off the table completely. It is a hard concept for me to fathom. This is not a Jewish organization trying to help women, it is a pro-life organization using Judaism as a façade to draw in Jewish women and convince them not to have an abortion.