Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Letter to MK Orit Zuaretz on Rabbis and Abortion

From: Reuven Spolter
To: Orit Zuaretz
date: Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 3:52 PM
subject: Your attack on the rabbanut letter about abortion

Shalom Orit,

It says on your website that you speak English, so I'm going to write in English, as that is easiest for me. I'm an Oleh (Chadash) living in Yad Binyamin.

I read about the recent discussion in the ועדה לקידום מעמד האישה, and that you were quoted as saying the following:

לדברי ח"כ אורית זוארץ, "ביטול ועדת ההשפלות יכול לשנות את המצב, הרבנים הראשים לישראל שמקבלים את שכרם של המדינה מנסים באמצעות אמירות והפחדות לכפות על נשים לא לבצע את ההפלות, הרבניים דורשים הקמת ועדה נגד הפלות שאין להם מקום בחברה הדמוקרטית, לא נותנים לנשים להחליט על גופן".
It seems to me that your comments were cheap and unfair.
1. What is the connection between where rabbis get their salaries from and their right to express their opinion? You seem to be feeding into stereotypes that might get people excited, but don't really have much practical meaning.
2. To claim that distributing a pamphlet about the traditional Jewish view on abortion represents כפייה is patently unfair. The rabbanim never claimed that a woman "may not" have an abortion. That's a legal matter. What they did say in their letter is that they should not - it's against Jewish law and the values of יהדות. Isn't it their job to tell us what Judaism teaches us in matters of this nature?
3. I don't know much about the ועדות from which you speak, but an article in the Jerusalem Post seems to imply that the law is that the women must appear before a committee:

In order to have a legal abortion carried out by a recognized practitioner, a woman must seek approval from a three-person review committee, of which at least one of the members must be a woman. Two of the members must be licensed physicians, and the third must be a social worker.

If that's the law, first ask whether the women do feel humiliated, whether the committees meet properly. Why jump to conclusions?

It would be reasonable to say that while you respect the rabbis' position, you feel that in a democratic state a woman should have the right to make her own decision on such a personal and intimate matter without any State intervention. About this we could agree to disagree. But calling a meeting to complain about members of the Rabbanut performing their duty - to disseminate information without coercion - that seems like the height of hypocrisy.

Best wishes,
Reuven Spolter
Yad Binyamin