Abortion is a type of murder; I have no doubt about that. In this context we can debate over questions such as the duration of a pregnancy and when exactly do several cells turn into a person with a soul, but I have no interest in doing that. I accept the universal assumption that as of a certain moment, we are talking about a real person, and “aborting it” is a type of murder.
And still, as a woman and a mother, I must reject the religious hypocrisy and politically correct attitude of the religious social discourse, and declare that I am in favor of abortions. I support the right of a woman (or parents) to decide to end the pregnancy because she feels it is impossible for her to proceed with it.
When a woman says “I cannot raise this child” I believe her, and I do not wish to force her (or that child) to embark on a life of distress of one type or another.
I am not talking about other women, but rather, about myself. Despite the regret inherent in this realization, I know that I would not be able to decide to raise a child with a serious defect. I would not have been able to find out during my pregnancy that my child suffers from Down syndrome or a similar defect and continue the pregnancy as if nothing had happened.
As a mother, had my daughter faced pregnancy at a very young age, I would strongly recommend that she terminate it rather than punish herself and the child throughout her life because of the mistake she made. Generally speaking, when a mother of five, or three, or two feels that this pregnancy is exhausting her and the only thing she can see in the future is growing mental (or financial) distress, I completely agree that it would be better to terminate the pregnancy and rehabilitate the soul before any future pregnancy.
The Chief Rabbinate decided to act against abortions. They take it for granted that the vast majority of abortions are “not necessary” because the “life of the mother is not at risk.” I agree with them that if we are only talking about actual death, this is not a question of saving lives.
However, if they take the time to visit psychiatric wards at various hospitals and see the growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox mothers who can no longer bear the burden, if they meet mothers who are unable to love the children they did not want to have, if they meet women whose lives were stopped because of an early pregnancy that left them bitter, if they see children whose parents could not devote enough time to them because their siblings were born with a defect, perhaps then the rabbis would be able to expand the definition of “saving a life”.
When a woman says that for her the pregnancy is a matter of life or death, you rabbis (with all due respect) cannot tell her it isn’t so.
I, of course, admire and appreciate all of those people who are not like me. The ones who raise children
with defects with great love, and who courageously face any mission God had tasked them with.
I feel the same about people whose daughter has no chance of becoming pregnant too early, or ones for whom a mental or financial difficulty has no meaning. But even those saints must realize that for us, the simple people, terminating a pregnancy is sometimes the only way to keep on living.