Back to Sunday School: A Rabbi and a Minister Unpack 'Personhood'
With new legislation and amendments being brought up for votes, what does religion really say aout abortion? A Rabbi and an Minister weigh in.
Pro-lifers are having a busy month. There is the Personhood amendment set to pass November 8th in a general election vote in Mississippi, with support from Democrats and Republicans, which ould define human life as legally beginning at fertilization. This would render all abortions and morning-after pills illegal, and, according to some, could result on bans of certain birth control pills and in-vitro fertilization.
And just a few weeks ago the House of Representatives passed H.R. 358, the Let Women Die Act 2011 which would prohibit women from receiving coverage for abortion from any insurance policy even using their own personal funds, and allow hospitals or doctors to deny women both abortion and referral even in situations where the woman's death is imminent from a pregnancy gone terribly wrong.
The Personhood movement, as well as the anti-choice movement, in general, says that they are trying to comply with divine law, as opposed to civil law, and relies upon portions of the Christian and Hebrew Bibles to make that claim. But when I decided to take a look at the texts they say inspire these “divine” laws, I couldn’t find one place that unequivocally said that life begins at conception. Befuddling! And so I decided to email two smart women who know this stuff way better than I do, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights–North America, and Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, to help clear up what exactly these portions do and don’t say about when life begins. Well, it looks like some Mississippians could use a Sunday school refresher course before they go using their divine interpretations to change our civil laws. Not that Americans are supposed to be using divine law to inspire civil laws anyway (See: Constitution).
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