Jewish community leaders will fight attempts to restrict abortion in Virginia
Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, the only Jewish woman in the General Assembly, organized an online gathering to discuss her religion’s view of abortion and of efforts by Governor Youngkin and his political allies to further restrict access.
“The governor has supported incredibly dangerous legislation that bans abortion in the Commonwealth," she says. "Just this past week he had said that he believes that life begins at conception and that he would ‘gleeully sign any bill that came to his desk.’ “
She then introduced Dr. Sara Imershein, a gynecologist who works at two women’s health clinics in the D.C. area.
"Restricting abortion at any gestational age is contrary to thousands of years of Jewish law and also Islamic law," she said. "The question is not when does life begin? The question is when does life become human? and very early in the Bible, we know the fetus becomes human when the head is born, and until that time the life of the mother always supersedes the life of the fetus or embryo.”
And to that, Falls Church Rabbi Amy Schwartzman said amen.
"It is truly an outrage that women are being stripped of their fundamental right to make essential healthcare decisions free of governmental interference. Pregnant individuals must be able to make ethical decisions based on their own beliefs and medical best interests without government officials imposing their personal religious views on others," she asserted. "It is devastating to hear our governor has aligned himself with the court’s religious authoritarians in denying freedom of religion for not only the Jewish community but for all of those whose beliefs allow pregnant individuals their full rights.”
And she punctuated her remarks with a nod to former Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson.
“Can you imagine how shattered Jefferson would be to learn of the actions of Glenn Youngkin – actions that deny the very religious freedom Jefferson passionately enshrined through his life work?”
At the Jewish Community Relations Council, which represents 150,000 Jews in Northern Virginia and 150,000 more in D.C. and Maryland, executive director Ron Halber added that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has further divided the nation.
“As a result of the supreme court’s decision, access to abortion will depend on where you live and which political party controls your state. It has led to increased polarization. It’s setting up battles between states and within states.”
And Guila Franklin Siegel, associate director of the council, said the Jewish community in Virginia would fight any efforts in Richmond to erode access to abortion.
“Over 80% of American Jews have consistently supported access to legal and safe abortions, precisely because we understood that without the benefit of these federal protections, the door would open for states to adopt draconian abortion bans that impinge on our fundamental religious freedoms. Compelling Jews to adhere to a law that elevates one religion’s tenets over another’s is wrong!”
Governor Youngkin has asked four Republican lawmakers to craft a bill similar to ones in place in Mississippi and Florida, banning abortions after 15 weeks. He would support exceptions in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life. A vote on that measure could come in January.