On December 1st, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) leaders and advocates rallied together on the steps of the US Supreme Court to show support for abortion access. Inside, the Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging the constitutional right to abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions.
Some background: In 2018, Mississippi passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with few exceptions. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the last abortion provider in Mississippi — challenged the law, which has been on hold as it makes its way through the courts. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, then abortion will be effectively banned in Mississippi. And if Roe is overturned, 24 states would likely take action to prohibit abortion outright. The impact of abortion restrictions and bans fall hardest on people who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care: women, Black, Indigenous & other people of color, the LGBTQI+ community, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities, and those working to make ends meet.
In Judaism, abortion is not only permitted, it’s sometimes even required. As a part of 73Forward, a Jewish movement for abortion justice, NCJW advocates gathered at the Court to raise our voices in support of abortion because of — not in spite of — our religious and moral values.
NCJW began the day by hosting an Interfaith Gathering with Catholics for Choice, featuring Rabbi Mira Rivera, Reverend Leslie Watson Wilson, Maggie Siddiqi, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA). The Interfaith Gathering provided a sacred space in which people of all religious backgrounds could join their voices to advocate for abortion access.
After the Interfaith Gathering, faith leaders processed to the Court, all the while chanting “People of Faith Say/Abortion Is Essential!” Once there, people of faith opened the rally, spiritually grounding both the moment and the issue.The rally, and the day’s efforts, centered Mississippi activists leading the fight to protect abortion access in their state, and across the country. Members of Congress, movement leaders, and clergy members shared stories, inspirational calls to action, and songs. NCJW CEO Sheila Katz spoke during the rally, remind us that “For too long, this country has allowed a small but loud group from the religious right to dominate the narrative around abortion and religion. Now we are reclaiming the narrative.” Watch the full livestream of the rally here and read Sheila’s full remarks at the bottom of the page.
It was an exhilarating day. An emotional day. A day to gather strength for the work ahead. While we await the Court’s decision, we will not stop fighting for equal access to abortion care. Now, more than ever, we need the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would safeguard against bans and restrictions like this Mississippi law. Take action with NCJW today by calling your Senators to tell them you support this critical legislation. Our right to abortion is essential — essential for social and economic equality, reproductive autonomy, and the right to determine our own lives and futures.
NCJW CEO Sheila Katz’ Rally Remarks
My name is Sheila Katz and on behalf of the 200,000 National Council of Jewish Women advocates across the country, I’m here to say loudly that Jews support abortion access.
And Happy Hanukkah by the way. It is only fitting that we are here outside the Supreme Court during Hanukkah, a holiday about bringing light in the darkness and fighting against religious persecution. I am grateful that this country guarantees our freedom to act according to our religious beliefs.
These beliefs include our position on abortion.
The Torah is clear on this issue. Abortion is not only permitted in Judaism, but in some cases required when the life of the pregnant person is at stake.
Restrictive abortion laws, rooted in just one understanding of when life begins, limit our ability to fully practice our religious tradition. We should all be able to make our own healthcare decisions in alignment with our beliefs. If laws like the one being debated here today are allowed to take effect, we not only lose our constitutional right to abortion but our constitutional right to religious freedom.
Spoiler alert: Jews have abortions. (Pause) Christians have abortions. Muslims have abortions.
People of faith and people of no faith have abortions.
Jewish scripture mandates Kavod Habriyot, respecting human dignity. People of faith believe in compassion and dignity. People of faith support the right of every individual to access the medical care they need.
And as a reminder, we are commanded to love thy neighbor, not sue thy neighbor.
For too long, this country has allowed a small but loud group from the religious right to dominate the narrative around abortion and religion, claiming that abortion access is a violation of religious freedom. So we ask them? Whose religious freedom are you trying to protect?
Religious freedom in this country is meant to be a shield to protect people of minority faith communities, not a sword to discriminate against us. The Supreme Court is supposed to uphold our Constitutional rights, not tear them down.
We must not let the goalposts get moved, we must not cede any moral ground in this fight. These are our rights. We must claim them.
I want to close with a blessing for our work together ahead–our work to create a world where our rights are not up for debate.
May we have the resilience to keep going even when it feels like the arc of the moral universe is taking too long to bend towards justice.
May we always center those most impacted by abortion bans and restrictions to care.
May we create a world where nobody ever feels shamed or stigmatized for seeking or receiving abortion care.
May we remember that WE are the majority and WE can and will shape the narrative of abortion in this country.