Abortion is a Jewish value, and the US House of Representatives' vote to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) is a crucial step in protecting abortion rights across the US, National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz said on Friday.
The House approved legislation on Friday to protect abortion services against growing Republican-backed state restrictions, including a Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, but it is unlikely to pass the Senate.
In addition, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday signed a new law that restricts access to abortion-inducing medications, just weeks after the state rolled out a near-total ban on abortion procedures.
The law on medications prohibits mail-order abortion-inducing drugs and says doctors in the state are only allowed to prescribe them up to seven weeks after conception. Previously that restriction was set at 10 weeks.
"Texas continues to lead the way in protecting unborn children and fostering a culture of life," Abbott said in a written statement. "We have taken monumental steps to save babies from the ravages of abortion."
The progressive NCJW views the values of Judaism as a call to do the opposite.
"As Jews, we recognize abortion as essential health care, that is not only permitted but in some cases, required by our tradition," Katz said in a statement. "We celebrate the House of Representatives’ passage of WHPA which moves us closer to ensuring that all people have access to the full range of reproductive options, including abortion, in line with their values and faith tradition," she said.
"Since 2011, anti-abortion lawmakers have passed more than 500 restrictive abortion laws through state legislatures and already 2021 is the worst legislative year ever for abortion rights. The people most impacted are Black, indigenous, people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and those working to make ends meet who already face obstacles to health care," Katz continued.
During the Supreme Court term beginning next month, the court will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that could determine the future of Roe v. Wade, possibly overturning the decades-old precedent.
"Equal access to abortion care is essential for social and economic equity, reproductive autonomy, and to our futures," Katz said.
THE DEMOCRATIC-controlled House voted 218-211 largely along party lines to pass the WHPA. Just one Democrat voted against the proposal.
The bill would protect abortion services and preempt many of the restrictions that Republicans have passed at the state level, such as those that require ultrasounds or other tests. However, it is expected to fail in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to support it.
“Every day, across the country, National Council of Jewish Women advocates work to ensure we can all make our own moral and faith-informed decisions about our bodies, health, and future. This effort will continue with pressure on the Senate to now pass WHPA without delay to guarantee equitable access to abortion in every corner of the United States,” Katz concluded.
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of 200,000 volunteers and advocates, who are inspired by Jewish values to strive for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.
Reuters contributed to this report.