In a recent video, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), sometimes referred to as AOC, argued that laws protecting preborn children from abortion pose a violation of the ability of some to exercise their faith, claiming that the knowledge that life begins at fertilization is a Christian belief when it is actually a scientific fact.
In the video, Ocasio-Cortez mocks the idea that abortion harms (let alone kills) a life saying, “some religions don’t” believe abortion is the act of killing an innocent life. She singles out the Jewish faith, stating, “Our Jewish brothers and sisters – they are able to have an abortion according to their faith. You know – there are so many faiths that do not have the same definition of life as fundamentalist Christians.”
Lost her Marbles: AOC claims Abortion is a Jewish "religious" sacrament. pic.twitter.com/p6kpG9IgRX
— Ethan Harsell (@ethan_harsell) December 21, 2022
URGENT: For every dollar given, 34 more people can be reached with the truth about abortion. Will you join us in this life-saving work as a monthly donor today?
Ocasio-Cortez goes on to say, “What about their right to exercise their faith?”
Essentially, she’s placing the definition of when life begins on religion, not science. Her argument falls flat because scientists have confirmed that a new and distinct human organism begins at fertilization. The American College of Pediatricians states that for “millennia” the following has been known:
The predominance of human biological research confirms that human life begins at conception — fertilization. At fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.
It is unclear who Ocasio-Cortez considers to be “fundamentalist Christians,” but it’s true that Catholic teaching is against abortion at all stages of pregnancy, without exceptions, and that many Protestant denominations are against abortion as well.
But what does Jewish law really say about abortion?
The official statement by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson overturning Roe v. Wade reads in part:
The Orthodox Union is unable to either mourn or celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. We cannot support absolute bans on abortion—at any time point in a pregnancy—that would not allow access to abortion in lifesaving situations. Similarly, we cannot support legislation that does not limit abortion to situations in which medical (including mental health) professionals affirm that carrying the pregnancy to term poses real risk to the life of the mother.
The statement goes on to declare, “The ‘right to choose’ (as well as the ‘right to die’)—are thus completely at odds with our religious and halachic values. Legislation and court rulings that enshrine such rights concern us deeply on a societal level.” (emphasis added)
In addition, the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation recently reacted to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, calling them “dangerous and indefensible.”
From these statements, it’s clear that the goal of Jewish law regarding abortion is to protect human life. Abortion is certainly not seen as a “right” in the Jewish faith.
The misleading concept here is that Jewish law has one exception; it permits abortion in cases where the life of the mother is at risk during pregnancy. While the lives and health of mothers can become at risk during some pregnancies, induced abortion (intentional killing) is never medically necessary in order to save the life of the mother. In fact, a group of medical professionals came together at a symposium in Ireland and put together a document called the Dublin Declaration, which declares that deliberately killing a preborn child is never medically necessary. Over 1,000 medical professionals have signed the document to date. The Declaration states (emphasis added):
As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
In addition to skewing the truth regarding when life begins, Ocasio-Cortez is placing a misplaced weight on religion and politics, as well. Abortion is not fundamentally a religious issue, and it’s not a political issue at its core, either. The killing of an innocent preborn child (abortion) is primarily an issue of natural human rights. If intentionally killing an innocent human is always wrong, and a successful abortion procedure always intentionally kills an innocent human, then intentional killing via abortion is always wrong.