Over the course of tonight’s seder, we are commanded to imagine that we ourselves came out of Egypt – as if we ourselves were personally redeemed from slavery. Perhaps this is a lofty goal; few of us have experienced slavery in the way our Israelite ancestors did. Similarly, it can be hard to imagine the paralyzing confinement many women and families feel while seeking to access abortion care. We retell stories to transport our conscience back to the ‘narrow places’ of Mitzrayim and to rejuvenate our commitment to full redemption for all people. As Rabbi Weber’s story reminds us, unfortunately this day has not yet come:
“We really wanted children. Seven months after we were married, we learned that Shira was pregnant and we were overjoyed. But at 18 weeks we learned that our baby had multiple anomalies and would die at birth. After talking with our family and our rabbis (yes, rabbis have rabbis, too), we chose to have an abortion. The doctor said the best way to ensure that we could try again was to have what is now called a “partial birth abortion.” We did, and after grieving for our loss we became the parents of three healthy (thank God) children, now adults.
The method we chose for the abortion is currently outlawed in 16 states. That’s right: 16 states now tell people – even married couples – that they do not have the right to the medical care which is best for them. And 32 states will not allow public funding for this kind of abortion, since Shira’s life was not in danger. The fact that she would have carried a dying baby for another five months doesn’t matter in those states. Any woman not able to afford private health insurance will have to live the nightmare of knowing her baby’s date of birth and date of death will coincide.
In the landmark case, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decided that a woman’s right to privacy includes the right to choose what happens to her own body. Yet from laws which require a woman prove her life is in danger before getting permission to abort, to protesters outside clinics taking pictures of women exercising their right to choose, no part of a woman’s health is less private today. How could people we never met know better than we, what should happen to our bodies?”
As we drink our third cup of wine, let us reflect: why is this right different from all other rights? What can we do to help bring us out of the slavery of judgment and injustice and into the light of freedom that tonight’s seder celebrates and represents? What can we do to redeem and value the personal choices that women and families make and, in process, redeem ourselves and our community?
-Rabbi Donald Weber and Rabbi Shira Stern are the spiritual leaders at Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro, NJ.
For more information on reproductive justice, please visit rac.org/reproductive-rights-and-womens-health.
For all Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism resources for Passover, please visit rac.org/Passover.
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