Lilith Feature

The Fight for Reproductive Rights: It Never Ends

As a new 6–3 Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett begins hearing cases
about reproductive rights in 2021, and Roe stands on ever-shakier footing, here is
a look back at highlights from decades of Lilith reporting on abortion: much of it
as urgent and relevant as if it were published today.

The battle against abortion is only the first step in an attempt by the New Right to reshape the American political system in its authoritarian image… anti-civil rights for minorities and homosexuals, anti-labor and anti-sex education.

Annette Daum, “The Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights”

A California State Senator has been stripped of a committee chairmanship and fired from a state commission on women after describing abortion supporters as “bulldykes,” “lesbians” and “murderous marauders” who are hard, Jewish and “arguably” female.

Annette Daum, “Anti-Choice and Anti-Semitic”


If the forces seeking to restrict abortion win out, Jews who follow Jewish law on matters of abortion which says that a mother’s well-being takes precedence over that of the fetus, and never equated abortion with murder will have that freedom of religion abrogated.

Miriam Arond, “At the Center of the Storm: Jewish Women in Politics Talk About the Issues”

I often claim each woman who gets safely into the clinic for an abortion—18 to 22 each Saturday morning—as a small victory, a vindication for having to interrupt my Shabbat by waking at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the distant reaches of Northeast Philadelphia and stand in a parking lot, at least six months out of the year in darkness. Escorting is the most concrete form of activism that I know.

Christie Balka, “On the Picket Lines: Defending Abortion Rights”

The abortion issue has become—as, in another way the “JAP” issue was—a pernicious amalgam of anti-Semitism and misogyny.

Susan Weidman Schneider, “The Anti-choice Movement: Bad News for Jews”

Clearly whoever wrote the “One nation handles the problem of abortion in an intelligent way” piece was either doing shoddy journalism or misguidedly glorifying Israel—or both. The health care system’s view of patient rights is lousy, women’s rights here are lousy, and the abortion issue is no exception.

“Gagged by Red Tape: Israeli Bureaucracy Limits Women’s Access to Information on Abortion”

While many women celebrated January 22nd, 1993, as the twentieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision protecting a woman’s right to abortion, others, in a horrifying and dangerous manipulation, labeled the date as the beginning of the “American Holocaust.”

Hadar Dubowsky, “Anti-Choice, Anti-Jew”

While Catholic tradition focuses on the soul of the fetus, Jewish law focuses on the life of the mother.

Leila Bronner, “Is Abortion Murder?”


  One of the first acts of George W. Bush as President was to bar health organizations abroad that receive U.S. aid from offering any abortion services.

Alice Sparberg Alexiou, “Bush’s War—The One on Women”


 Many women who are now in their 20s and 30s have little historical and no visceral knowledge of the crises an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy often precipitated in the pre-Roe v. Wade decades… With Washington now trying to pack the courts with anti-choice judges, and with many states restricting access to abortion, we had better be vigilant.

Susan Weidman Schneider, “Letter from the Editor”

The primary obstacle for Israeli women is the “abortion panel,” a three-person committee consisting of doctors and social workers—including at least one woman—that must approve all abortions. Irit Rosenblum, an advocate for reproductive freedom, says “It’s chauvinistic…a relic from the dark ages.”

Elana Maryles Sztokman and L. Ariella Zeller, “Abortion in Israel”

The president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, told a House committee, “We object to the use of drugs and procedures used to take the lives of unborn children,” referring not to abortion, but to contraception!

Elana Sztokman, “Confusing Abortion with Contraception”

Legal abortion split the world open to the realities of women’s lives, laid bare in my counseling rooms. They had made the choice to abort, but they still couldn’t believe it was safe and legal. “I won’t be butchered?” they asked. “I won’t die?” They were sure they’d be punished. “Can I really do this thing and go on with my life?” I saw so much vulnerability: legs spread wide apart; the physician crouched between white, black, thin, heavy, but always trembling, thighs: the tube sucking the fetal life from their bodies, the last thrust and pull of the catheter, then the gurgle that signaled the end of the abortion. Over and over I witnessed women’s relief that their lives had been given back to them. It was a kind of born-again experience.

Merle Hoffman, “Abortion Foremother”

“Livchor”—“to choose.” The first time I went to the abortion clinic, I couldn’t go through with it and left with my pregnancy still intact. During the six days that followed, I came to terms with the awesome charter of my choice. Okay, this is inescapable, I told myself. I can’t pretend I’m not doing it. “Pro-choice,” “pro-life”—I was taking responsibility for my power.

Deborah Eisenbach-Budner with Rabbi Susan Schnur, “A Ritual for Abortion”

The mountain of anti-choice laws grows ever higher: mandatory waiting periods; mandatory ultrasounds, some of which must be done via vaginal probe; measures that restrict medical students from learning how to perform abortions; building codes that make freestanding abortion clinics adhere to the same strict standards as hospitals. Anti-choice activism has become enviably creative.

Sarah Erdreich, “Don’t Say ‘Vagina’”


Midwifery has been part of the reproductive justice movement, in which Jewish women have been consistently active. Fully one-third of the students in my midwifery class are Jewish. We think in these terms: How do we improve women’s status, women’s lives?

Jessica Angelson talks to Susan Schnur, “Generation Midwife”

Women who were denied an abortion were associated with mental health difficulties, specifically anxiety and depression. Women who were able to access the abortion they wanted had more positive outcomes so much for the accusation that women regret their abortions.

Chanel Dubofsky, “Abortion Doesn’t Harm Your Mental Health”

Despite the evidence that Jews support pro-choice candidates for public office, do we think “good” Jews don’t have abortions?

Chanel Dubofsky, “What’s Missing When Jews Talk About Abortion”


  Extra-legal abortions will look different from what they did in the 1970s. A “medication abortion,” or a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, allows for a safe FDA and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists-approved and more private way to terminate a pregnancy. Misoprostol can also be used on its own, inducing bleeding and symptoms similar to a miscarriage.

Kira Yates, Five Things You Can Do Right Now for Abortion Rights

There’s a difference between abortion being legal, which it technically is as of now in the U.S., and being able to get an abortion if you need one.

Chanel Dubofsky, “Worried About Roe Now? Welcome to the Fight”


What commentator Rachel Maddow describes as the Trump administration’s “performative cruelty,” includes decidedly anti-“life,” anti-child policies like the separation of infants and children from their parents at the southern border of the U.S.

Susan Weidman Schneider on the Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights


So Jane did what thousands of young women were forced to do in the 1960s— she underwent a back-alley abortion. Though she had worried about going through with it, other young women she knew had used the same abortion doctor and had been fine… Unfortunately, afterward Jane was not fine at all: she developed sepsis and multi-organ failure…Though the team tried everything they could to resuscitate and stabilize her, she did not make it. We all cried.

Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D., “In Med School Before Roe v. Wade”

Let your friends know that everyone loves someone who’s had an abortion. Be explicit about your support for abortion, about listening to and loving your friends who’ve had them, and about your commitment to protecting abortion access. We need you now more than ever.

Steph Herold, “Everyone Loves Someone Who’s Had an Abortion”

One of Trump’s campaign promises—fulfilled—was to nominate fervently anti-choice ideologues to the Supreme Court. Indeed, Trump’s fawning over social-issue conservatives has been blatant.

Eleanor J. Bader, “The Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion”


Post-Covid, I want to imagine that abortion will be accessible in the ways I’ve always dreamed: The option to seek care in a clinic or self-administer abortion medication wherever a person feels comfortable. The abortion will be free.

Steph Black, “Abortion for Anyone Who Needs It”

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