Is what I read about abortion and Judaism correct?


Please comment on a USA Today article claiming the Jewish faith teaches that abortion is permitted.  The article was published on July 27, 2019. 

Are they accurately quoting the teachings of the faith?


Carole P.

Dear Carole,

Thank you for bringing this shameful,  painful and misleading article to our attention. The short answer is, no, they are not accurately conveying the teachings of the Jewish faith as expressed in our Constitution, the Torah. You can either build your worldview  around your religion or build your religion around your existing worldview. The latter is what most people quoted in the article are doing. Either religion means something or it doesn’t. You can’t just call on it and define it as you like.

The sad fact which we have to set before you is that about 70% of all self-identified American Jews have values that are not shaped by God’s vision as revealed in the Bible.  As has happened many times in history, they don’t merely wish to scuttle the Bible-based values of Judaism, they wish to change Judaism.   Among the many Jewish values that they have eviscerated is the value of life.  You can take it as a given that the more an American of Jewish ancestry supports today’s radical abortion views, the less he has to do with the faith of Moses and Aaron. That faith, while it does emphasize mercy and compassion, is nonetheless based on laws. When God’s laws are abandoned and only emotions are left, after a long and winding road, what started as compassionate concern for a desperate pregnant woman can step-by-step slide into support for infanticide, though no one back at the time of Roe v. Wade in 1973 would have believed that possible.

There is certainly room for a theological and worldview discussion in Judaism as to whether abortion is a category of  murder or whether it falls under a different prohibition.  Regardless, the positions of the Torah and those of today’s Democrat Party could hardly be further apart.   In Judaism,  if a woman’s life is in danger due to the baby she is carrying,  a valid reason for inducing premature labor exists even if the baby is not viable. For this reason, Jews who live by the Torah  are sometimes cynically  manipulated  by pro-abortion groups depicting a woman being forced to die during pregnancy or childbirth rather than having her life prioritized. As you know, American law is nowhere close to this extreme and an extraordinarily small number of  pregnancies today present such a dilemma. 

The dreadful article you cite quotes  one view by an authoritative Orthodox rabbi of the past few decades trying  to “prove” the acceptability of abortion in Jewish law. This is misleading for a few reasons. Firstly, because there is no Pope in Judaism, which is to say that we have no hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority. Within the ranks of those trying to be true to God’s Torah, there will be different opinions and discussions in trying to reach the truth. Each Jew is meant to choose which Rabbinical authority he follows. You can’t go “shopping” for someone whose views you like on a specific issue. We can guarantee you that the people in the article who approve the views of this rabbi do not follow his ritual rulings in other areas.

Secondly, while this rabbi’s position might have been more liberal (for example, to include extreme psychological distress under the heading of ‘danger to life’) in counseling women who personally consulted him thus allowing early labor  to be induced more than other authorities might condone, we can assure you that he would be horrified at being used as the poster boy for Planned Parenthood. The mockery of life that the modern abortion movement celebrates has no basis whatsoever in Torah-true Judaism.

Abortion is not a recent phenomenon.  The drive to completely sever the connection between sex and  reproduction goes back to the earliest pages of the Bible and the times of Noah.  Since then abortion has always been associated with the struggle against God’s authority on earth.  Jews have been among the world’s most ardent defenders of that Divine authority but  those of Jewish descent have also been most active in the timeless battle to defeat the Divine.  Combating this misapplication of Judaism is why the American Alliance of Jews and Christians was established and why we support its work.

One does not “accept” Judaism at some moving moment in life. It is conferred by birth. So  Judaism is almost unique in that you can hear of what sounds like an oxymoron—an atheistic Jew.  You can  hate God; you can disparage  everything He asks of us and yet still consider yourself Jewish. Only a small percentage  of Jews in America fall into the category of those whose daily behavior revolves around following Jewish law. They are not featured in this article.

It is an embarrassment.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention even though it made us squirm with discomfort,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

30 thoughts on “Is what I read about abortion and Judaism correct?”

  1. I am so glad you have answered the bad information and distorting of a great religion
    We are not a death cult . That is what the far left want

  2. Dear Rabbi Lapin and Rebbetzin Lapin,

    Thank you for your reply to Carole P., and for clarifying the pro-life Torah view regarding Judaism and abortion. When I learned in 1997 that a majority of Jewish Americans support unrestricted abortion rights, I found it very disturbing. That is why I established Jews For Life in 1999, to promote the viewpoint of traditional Judaism, and I have been active in the pro-life movement for over 30 years. I admire your commitment to conservative values and the work you and Susan are doing, and I have learned so much from your radio podcasts. I read your book “America’s Real War” in 1999 and it is wonderful and just as relevant in today’s times. I hope I have the pleasure of meeting you and Susan at future pro-life events. Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy, Healthy and Blessed New Year.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for your uplifting words Bonnie
      and for your dedication to this cause.

  3. Hello Susan and Rabbi Lapin.
    I happened to visit your website this morning and found this Q & A. The article referenced was very disturbing. Thank you for shedding light and truth on the lies. I did my best to address the misinformation, too. The sad reality is that most articles about Judaism and abortion published in media work hard to maintain the ‘fake Judaism’ that keeps many Jews in political advocacy and financial support of the abortion industry. This despite it working against us demographically, morally, and ethically. It was wonderful to meet you at the YJLS and I want to wish both of you a blessed and prosperous New Year!

  4. The current campaign to normalize abortion as a “best choice “ which is being carried out by many female celebrities and politicians is one of the greatest evils of our times. There is even a support group that has formed to get the word out to women accused of infanticide to claim the baby never cried or moved, thereby enabling more women to get away with killing their newborns. Women teaching their daughters that babies are disposable “tissue” is heartbreaking. Women in America have more opportunities, choices, education, and wealth then ever before in the history of mankind. Yet, mothers, sisters, grandmothers and friends are encouraging young women in extreme selfishness and sin by teaching them a pregnancy is not a baby but a choice.

    1. Lesa, for some influencers in socitey it has gone way beyond “best choice” to “preferred choice.”

  5. Since I do not subscribe to any newspaper, I had no idea the article was out there (as I’ve heard Rabbi Daniel say in his recordings, he does the reading for me, so to speak, which I appreciate very very much) I’ve often wondered how many of the American Jewish community are Torah believing and how many are not i.e. left-leaning. So “70% of all self-identified American Jews have values that are not shaped by God’s vision as revealed in the Bible.” How revealing. Thank you Rabbi Daniel and Mrs Lapin for your diligence in providing such timely, relevent , helpful, enlightening, life-changing lessons. God bless you.

  6. I appreciate your statements and agree with your analysis. I can’t help to note that you did not cite any Jewish authority (Torah, Tanach, Talmud, etc.) which would say that Judaism opposes abortion. Indeed, the charge to induce premature labor for the woman whose life is threatened is in the Talmud (I would suspect Tractate Niddah), but you didn’t say such. Sh’mot 22:22-23 says how men who induce a miscarriage through secondary violence should be punished, but not as if it were murder or manslaughter.

    1. Dane, we are not writing for an academic symposium nor are we having a practical or theological discussion with learned colleagues. If you have followed our writings for any length of time you will know that we almost never quote citations. While we do quote verses from the Bible, our teaching go beneath the surface of those verses relying on thousands of years of oral transmission. Our aim is to provide a window for the general public into ancient Jewish wisdom. Everyone reading is free to accept my husband as an authentic Torah source or to reject him as such.

    2. In response to Dane.

      The World English Bible says in Exodus 21:22 “If men fight and hurt a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, and yet no harm follows, he shall be surely fined as much as the woman’s husband demands and the judges allow. 23 But if any harm follows, then you must take life for life…”

      Miscarriage is death. If a man causes an unborn baby’s death, the punishment is death. “Life for life”. If it is a deliberate abortion, that is murder. Manslaughter in the laws of our nation is not a deliberate causation of death. Still, the Biblical formula says if a death occurs in the instance of a pregnant woman’s baby, in this scripture, death of the one causing the baby’s death is the punishment.

      I find it incredible that the notion of a woman deciding to kill her baby to protect her own life is considered a plausible justification for abortion. The justification that her family needs her and she should not risk her life for the sake of the life within her which may or may not be healthy is troubling. Would the same woman forsake risking her life to save her child that has run into traffic or it floundering in deep water or facing a gunman?

      Seems to me that our culture has skewed our thinking in too many areas. I am speaking from the experience of growing up in governmental indoctrination camps (public schools) and spending many years since trying to sort out what is God’s truth and what is man’s doctrine. Rabbi Lapin and Susan, you are helping me in that pursuit and I thank you.

  7. This is a step towatds “normalizing” bad behavior. After all Yeshua, Jesus is a Jew. So if Jews say abortion is alright Yeshua must agree.
    I would also add ceasarian section birth is another means to separate people from God. In this surgical procedure the child does not pass through the “matrix”. Torah says all that pass through the matrix belong to me. Correct.

    1. Timothy – there is nothing wrong with a baby who needs to be born by Caesarian section. It is a life-saving technique for which we can be grateful. There is a ceremony for a first-born Jewish boy at the age of 30 days for reasons too long to share here (that is what the verse you are referencing is talking about), and that is only for a first-born who emerges from the womb. But there is absolutely no objection to a Caesarian birth when the health of the mother or child is a consideration.

  8. My Orthodox uncle insisted that abortion was allowed in the concentration camps of WWII where, if a Jewess was discovered to be pregnant, she was more likely to be killed. It was not the physical aspect of the pregnancy but, rather, the circumstances around it that made it so dangerous for her. This principle has since been extrapolated, however, so that a pregnancy today causing any distress of any kind may be terminated. (Having been pregnant multiple times while married, I have never known a pregnancy that didn’t involved some kind/s of stress.)

    My rabbi further confirmed that abortion is not considered “murder” according to the punishments assigned should a blow cause the death of a women’s unborn baby. Rather, it is treated as if it is a loss of a limb. On the basis that self-mutilation is forbidden, I argued that even with this abortion would be forbidden. My rabbi and I finally agreed to disagree.

    1. Jennifer, there were heartbreaking questions asked and difficult rulings made during the Holocaust on all sorts of issues. I don’t know anyone who would point to that as having any relevance to the abortion question in today’s world and it would be disgusting to do so. As you say, we agree that specifically what violation abortion falls under is open to discussion by people faithful to the Torah, but not that it is a violation.

  9. “One does not “accept” Judaism at some moving moment in life. It is conferred by birth. “

    I still don’t get this. If G-D led his people from Egypt then his people followed him. If one didn’t follow him then that person is not his people. If you follow G-D the you are Jewish but if you don’t or actively rebel the one would be merely a Hebrew. I know im not changing any minds but I hope you can change my mind on how this works.

    1. Shawn, think of it as similar to American citizenship. You can hate this country and even openly say that but that doesn’t mean your citizenship is automatically revoked. It may not make you a good American, but you are still an American. Or if a member of your family goes against centuries of family tradition, that doesn’t legally kick them out of the family.

  10. “The sad fact which we have to set before you is that about 70% of all self-identified American Jews have values that are not shaped by God’s vision as revealed in the Bible.”

    Have all the good Jews moved to Israel? Well no, but that statistic is not a good sign. Also, it seems that America really wants to move in the general direction of those 70%, not in the general direction of the Bible. I know Trump is a speed bump, but the future direction of America appears to be dark.

    1. Matt, we pray and need to work to make sure that President Trump is not only a speed bump but only part of a huge pushback. However, this isn’t a question of Israeli vs. American Jews – it is a complex demographic issue.

  11. So thankful for this answer. I, too, saw the article and couldn’t but wonder why any Jew who has in their history the most horrible murdering of their children as in the holocaust would ever think that abortion could be an option. I am also a mother and I can’t think of any reason for considering murdering my baby. My son told me when he was a teen that his youth pastor had said that abortion was ok in the case of rape or incest. I had experienced both and told him that I would never consider giving a baby a death sentence for the crime that an adult committed against me.

  12. Very well said Rabbi Lapin,
    I’m a little more simple minded and you had a lot of heavy data in that thought.
    My thought and way to put it is; that a good Jewish person or anyone that follows in the foot steps of Jesus and the word of God would never ever need to know the word (abortion), it simply would not be needed in any way shape or form. When you live under God’s protection abortion would never come to mind nor should it ever. Abortion is a word from Satin.

  13. The whole issue makes me squirm with discomfort just for being identified as a human. The outrage to humanity that is the current state of abortion law and acceptability in this country (USA) is almost unbearable. Surely the pendulum is reaching the end of its trajectory. Soon, please.

    1. We certainly do seem to be coming to a day of reckoning on this great moral issue. Let’s pray that it is less violent than the Civil War, which too was fought over a moral issue.

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