The issue of abortion has become one of the most divisive and polarizing questions in American society. As the abortion debate has entered the political arena, and especially as the 1984 presidential campaign has progressed, both the âpro-lifeâ and the âpro-choiceâ sides have escalated their rhetoric. In doing so, they have given this issue more prominence than it has ever enjoyed before.
The passionate â" if abstract - arguments about whether an embryo is human obscure some central practical dilemmas inherent in the abortion debate. What are the effects of legalized abortion on family size, at a time that the Jewish community worries about a declining birthrate? What does a decision to abort, or not abort, do to family harmony, the relations between husband and wife, parents and children? Do restrictions on abortion constitute unwarranted government regimentation that endangers the lives of pregnant women, or are such restrictions a welcome antidote to the contemporary hedonism that may lead to the use
of abortion as a form of birth control?
Though it is safe to say that informed Americans are quite familiar with the positions of Christian and secular groups on both sides of this question, it is doubtful whether even most Jews understand the Jewish approach to the subject. If the matter comes up at all in a Jewish context, people tend to assume unthinkingly that Judaism must support abortion on demand.
This publication will be of great educational use for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. We also hope that its dissemination among Jewish leaders will inform and influence public policy statements and decisions in the Jewish community.