Lehayyim—"To Life," Not Abortion

Since many Jewish institutions and individuals speaking "as Jews" (or so they say) favor unrestricted abortion, pro-life people often assume that Judaism does, too. But when we distinguish the personal opinions of individuals from the doctrines of a faith set forth in authoritative holy books, matters prove more complex. And when we realize that, from the time of Spinoza to the present, not all of those who identified themselves as Jews have professed the religion of Judaism, we recognize a considerable error: the confusion of public opinion among Jews, which tends to favor liberal over conservative positions in politics, with the theological judgment of Judaism as set forth in the Torah.

A broadly circulated new essay, "A Torah-View of Abortion," by distinguished Orthodox Judaic religious leader Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, an American who has settled in Efrat, Israel, provides a clear and succinct account of the matter. Riskin perspicaciously sees the issue of abortion on demand in Exodus 21:22-23: "and if two men strive together and hurt a woman, causing her to miscarry, and there is no fatal harm, he shall surely be fined. . . But if fatal injury follows,then you shall give life for life." Riskin properly reads the "fatal injury" to refer to the woman, not the unborn child, and he calls attention to the well-established law of the Mishnah, the authoritative second century law code on which the Talmud...

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