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Resolution on Reproductive Health

Posted by JCPA  

05:07 PM Mar 12, 2014

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has a strong interest in the subject of reproductive health including family planning and abortion – a subject extensively addressed in Jewish law and practice.

Rabbis in our community offer private and compassionate pastoral care to women who seek out their spiritual guidance on a range of matters related to their reproductive health and pregnancy-related care, including abortion, thereby enabling a woman to consider the rich teachings of the Jewish tradition while making her own private moral decision.

Our Jewish community is also informed by the unique experience we have had living in the United States, where constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom has afforded unparalleled Jewish security. Our community has thrived and prospered in this country, while freely practicing our religion. Equal protection under the law, freedom of religious expression, and the separation of religion and state have provided a modern cultural overlay to our Jewish community’s unique understanding of reproductive freedom, including access to family planning and abortion.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

  • Applauds the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to require health insurance policies to cover, without co-pays or deductibles, all physician-prescribed FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity, and
    • is concerned that a proper balance be struck between accommodation of religious belief and women’s access to insurance for preventive health care services, and
    • is concerned about attempts to redefine certain well-accepted contraceptive medications and devices as abortifacients.
  • Is very concerned about the human impact of continued legal and legislative challenges to women’s reproductive health care access and choices in the United States. The Jewish values that undergird these issues, such as privacy, respect, dignity, and women’s autonomy and moral agency, are fundamental to our deep interest in matters of reproductive choice.
  • Respects and affirms Jewish teaching and tradition on reproductive matters. We believe that efforts aimed at protecting our vital American experience which is grounded in religious freedom, individual choice, equality, and privacy, are complimentary to maintaining support for core Jewish views on this matter.
  • Endorses the following positions:
    1. Human life is to be valued and protected.
    2. A woman has a legal right to make her own decisions about accessing the full range of reproductive health care. We support adequately funded and fully accessible family planning programs that provide comprehensive and medically accurate reproductive and sexual health education and the full range of health care services, including birth control and abortion services.
    3. Courts should recognize that emergency contraceptives and IUD’s are not “abortifacients” for purpose of any federal or state law dealing with “abortion.”
    4. Acknowledging that the decision to end a pregnancy may be a difficult one, but above all is a personal one, and should only be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor and others whom she chooses to involve, JCPA opposes any executive, administrative, legislative or judicial action, (Federal, State or local) which would:
      1. Deny or delay women their right to reproductive choice; or
      2. Restrict a woman’s ability to access reproductive health services at any age; or
      3. Restrict a woman’s religious liberty by imposing restrictions or limitations that make access to reproductive services more difficult or impossible to secure.
    5. Affirming that we trust women to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives, and for women who seek assistance in making difficult reproductive health decisions, JCPA supports the full and unfettered access to confidential and affordable spiritual, religious, mental health, and accurate medical guidance.
    6. We support efforts to strengthen and safeguard the spirit and impact of Roe v. Wade, including private choices by women of all ages, incomes, geographic regions, citizenship or immigration status, and sources of insurance and their equal access to high quality, safe, private, confidential and comprehensive reproductive health services.
    7. Access to comprehensive, unbiased, medically accurate sexuality and reproductive health education, information and services should be expanded so that women and young people know their reproductive health care options and are able to decide the best option for themselves in consultation with their health care provider.
    8. Secular business entities are artificial legal bodies and do not possess religious exercise rights that entitle them to deny their employees legally mandated insurance coverage for some or all contraceptive services. The regulatory compromise fashioned under the Affordable Care Act for religious non-profits that object to furnishing contraceptive coverage reflects an appropriate balancing of competing interests.
    9. Merely completing a form notifying an insurance company or third-party administrator of a religious non-profit organization’s objections to furnishing contraceptive coverage should not be seen as imposing a “substantial burden” on the organization’s religious exercise.

The community relations field should:

  1. Enhance deeper understanding through ongoing discussions in the Jewish community about the urgent need to advance equity in access to reproductive health services for all women and families while encouraging greater support, prayer, ritual and understanding of those who are grappling with moral dilemmas and painful decisions.
  2. Encourage increased Jewish community discussion about the harmful impact of difficult life circumstances and inequities in the choices that women (and men) in all walks of life may face as well as disparities across different geographic, socioeconomic and other populations regarding access to quality fertility/infertility, family planning, and abortion services.
  3. Oppose any legislative efforts to deny a woman’s right to meaningfully access the full range of reproductive health services, and fully exercise her constitutionally protected reproductive rights. For Example:
    1. Encourage Jewish communities to oppose any legislative efforts to impede access to reproductive health services, including abortion, by mandating medical care or services or excessive regulatory hurdles.
    2. Oppose legislation that seeks to practice medicine, such as defining when and what specific medical or surgical procedures are appropriate and lawful when applied to a woman and her ability to access reproductive health services.
    3. Oppose any effort that would restrict funding of an institution or program which provides health services including education, birth control, or abortion.
    4. File or join in amicus briefs in litigation involving the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate in order to place before courts JCPA positions on the issues involved.
  4. Encourage Jewish communities to actively oppose efforts that would deny a woman’s right to reproductive freedom on the State level.
  5. Support efforts to safeguard Roe v. Wade in the courts.
  6. Oppose efforts that would restrict any woman’s ability to access or afford the full range of reproductive health services, including birth control and abortion.
  7. Support adequately funded and fully accessible programs that provide comprehensive and medically accurate reproductive and sexual health education and the full range of confidential reproductive health care services, including birth control and abortion.

Dissent:

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America has long standing policy of not joining in JCPA Resolutions on “Reproductive Rights.” While we welcome the Resolution’s acknowledgement that “human life is to be valued and protected,” we cannot endorse a public policy that does not reflect the complex response of halacha to the abortion issue. In most circumstances, the halacha proscribes abortion, but there are cases in which halacha permits and indeed mandates abortion. The question of abortion is a sensitive one and personal decisions in this area should be made in consultation with recognized halachic authorities. In addition, for reasons of religious liberty (which are entirely unrelated to contraception), the Orthodox Union does not share the Resolution’s legal perspective on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate.

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