Jewish community to join ACLU, abortion providers in lawsuit against Ohio’s six-week abortion ban

Activists say abortion ban violates freedom of religion

By: - July 12, 2022 3:45 am

Members of the Jewish community have spoken out against abortion bans in Ohio, saying it infringes on their religious freedom. Photo by Morgan Trau, WEWS.

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Members of the Jewish community are coming together to tell the Ohio Supreme Court that the six-week abortion ban violates their religious freedom.

Although it hasn’t been fully drafted, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said their Ohio branch (RAC-OH) is working with other Jewish groups on filing an amicus brief, jumping onto the ACLU and Planned Parenthood’s original lawsuit to share their agreement.

There are about 150,000 Jewish people in Ohio, according to census data. Like Marisa Nahem, many Jews are coming together to oppose abortion bans.

“To see Republicans like Mike DeWine, like J.D. Vance, like Republicans at the statewide level and the local level, telling me that other religious beliefs, it feels like, are more valid — it just feels so sad and it feels so wrong,” Nahem said.

Nahem and her family in Northeast Ohio believe the newly implemented six-week abortion ban infringes on their freedom of religion.

Reform and Conservative Judaism supports access to abortion. Orthodox Judaism has no clear answer, which has been causing divides following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, Orthodox does believe abortion should always be allowed to save or prevent pain from the pregnant person, Suffolk University found.

“For me, being Jewish teaches me that, not only do I believe in access to abortion, but I believe the rights that exist and the views that people have, they have a right to have,” Nahem added.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, but the Ohio Supreme Court rejected their attempt for an emergency stop, which would prevent it being enforced.

This is a huge win for pro-life families, Michael Gonidakis with Ohio Right to Life said.

“The pursuit and protection of life is actually rooted into our both our Ohio Constitution, as well as the United States Constitution,” Gonidakis added.

Freedom of religion doesn’t cover abortion, he said.

“The issue of abortion truly has nothing to do with the religious faith, but in fact, it’s a human rights issue,” he said. “We’re focused on saving lives of all human beings, both born and unborn.”

The Talmud states that a fetus is “mere fluid” before 40 days gestation, however, it is not considered to have a life of its own or independent of the pregnant person’s body until “the onset of labor and childbirth,” according to the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).

The Torah also states that the Jewish law doesn’t consider a fetus to have the status of personhood, nor can it be murdered, since it is not alive.

“It’s not based on based on my personal faith or anyone else’s,” Gonidakis said. “It’s based on the really fundamental nature of sanctity of life, which is in our Constitution.”

This was debate was argued in late May, when a total abortion ban had its third hearing.

“One, it places tantamount the mother’s life, even over the fetus, but her life takes precedence,” Sharon Mars, senior rabbi at Temple Israel Columbus said after the hearing. “Secondly, the child is not considered a child until it actually has left the womb — a soul is not a soul, a person is not a person until it leaves the womb. And thirdly, the important thing that I try to emphasize is that not only the physical health of the mother is at stake, but also the mental health, which is critical in this whole conversation.”

Jewish law recognizes both a fetus and a pregnant person as having worth and value, but the pregnant person is always more important than the fetus, Mars added. The viability of a fetus is somewhere around 24 weeks in law.

“I’m incredibly proud and grateful of the Jewish community leaders, of the leaders of all faiths, politicians, different people who are speaking out and who are speaking and standing with the majority of Ohioans and with the majority of Americans who have made their views very clear on this,” Nahem said. “I am grateful for the leadership of Jewish community leaders and rabbis and just the Jewish community across the state who are saying this is not okay.”

The ACLU of Ohio said they are looking forward to the Jewish community joining them in this legal fight. So far, professors from Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati have filed amicus briefs, as well.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.