Free and safe access to reproductive health services has been a struggle and a fight for marginalized communities for a long time, but has worsened in the coronavirus pandemic. The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is planning an informative, focused Shabbat on the matter. The virtual Shabbat, which will take place on the weekend of February 12-13, will include Torah learning sessions to better understand Judaism's stance on the various issues at play, "tips for crafting a sermon," as well as a guide to hosting an interfaith panel, according to a press release. The force behind the Shabbat is Rabbis for Repro, NCJW's organized effort in spreading reproductive health information. Jewish clergy are recruited by commuting to speak up in their communities about the struggles of accessing reproductive health information and services. Other ways that various communities are participating in the virtual Shabbat are by hosting speakers from organizations dedicated to the cause, and leading sessions that instruct participants in the art of using storytelling and personalized experiences to further reach the public and inform them on the issue.“It is imperative that we live out our Jewish values and make sure our communities are informed about the Jewish perspective on this critical issue, making it clear that Jewish communities will welcome and support those who have or may in the future choose to terminate a pregnancy," said Sheila Katz, NCJW's CEO. Katz was appointed as the chief executive for women in the organization in 2019, after five years of being an active member. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a reproductive rights nonprofit, in the past 10 years, states across America have significantly upped their abortion restriction laws, despite the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade federal court case establishing abortion as a constitutional right. Currently, only 13 states are supportive of abortion rights, making abortion access easier to 38% of women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization dedicated to advancing reproductive rights in America. The remaining 58% of women in this age group live in "a state hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights." The anti-abortion laws enacted by states "take many forms," states the website of NARAL Pro-Choice America, another nonprofit dedicated to reproductive freedom, "including trying to outlaw abortion altogether, shutting down clinics, restricting access based on income level and dictating which medical procedures are available." “Lack of abortion access and information, especially as we continue to deal with the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, is extremely harmful and detrimental to those at the margins of society," added Katz. Since the coronavirus crisis began last year, clinics have closed down due to the providers getting infected with the virus, while lockdown restrictions have kept those that would seek out the care at home, a study published back in June shows.Additionally, the steady decline in contraceptive supplies, as well as the increase in domestic violence cases contribute to the necessity of these clinics, as research shows that when safe, transparent services become unavailable, people turn to less safe resources to have the procedure done."Our work has shifted over the last century in response to the most pressing challenges facing not only Jewish women but all vulnerable women, children, and families," states NCJW's website, including "protecting reproductive health, rights, and justice." “Our gathering places, be they synagogues, community centers or college campus groups, should be safe spaces where anyone who has terminated, or may ever terminate, a pregnancy feels loved, welcomed and supported," Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, NCJW's Scholar-in-Residence, said. "And they should be places where everyone understands the importance of fighting for reproductive rights, allowing equal access and justice for all. This Shabbat is a crucial opportunity to help get us there.”Register for the Shabbat here.