The Fall of ‘Roe’ would also be an attack on religious liberty


Bill Chizek -

The United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Stacey Newman  and Dana Sandweiss

On May 2, our lives were upended, especially in Missouri, with the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion that would overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guarantees a constitutional right to abortion.

Despite consistent polling showing that 69% of Missourians oppose the government forcing people to be pregnant and give birth, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed HB126, an abortion ban, into law in 2019. The Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act includes language that reads, “In recognition that Almighty God is the author of life,” and a section that declares the “life of an individual human being begins at conception.” 

HB126 was blocked from implementation in 2019 by U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs in Kansas City; his action was  upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. But the law remains on the books and Missouri would easily become one of 13 states with such a “trigger law” that would make abortion a felony if Roe fell. There would be no legal exception for rape or incest in our state, nor consideration of what would be best for the health and well-being of the pregnant individual. 

Stacey Newman

Rabbi Daniel Bogard of Central Reform Congregation and Tana Senn, a state representative in Washington and a member of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, recently wrote in a national op-ed: “Limiting access to abortion is an imposition of governmental Christianity on us all, and it infringes on the religious liberty of every American Jew.”  

The Torah and the Talmud provide that “for Jews, it is no exaggeration that access to abortion services isn’t just tolerated, it is a religious requirement and had been for thousands of years,” they wrote. 

In addition, the Missouri’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act states that “a governmental authority may not restrict a person’s free exercise of religion unless demonstrating that the restriction is essential to further a compelling governmental interest.”  

A ban on abortion in Missouri violates our freedom as Jews to control our bodies in a way that is consistent with our religious beliefs. As Jews, we understand religious persecution very well.

Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion is also deeply troubling because it reveals his disturbing view of pregnant people as mere birthing vessels, citing that the “domestic supply of infants is too low.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett pointed out in oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that current safe haven laws, which allow babies to be legally abandoned, allow individuals to safely give up their children with no repercussions. These views totally ignore that the maternal mortality rates in the United States rank last among industrialized countries.  

CDC data from 2014-2018 shows that the national case-fatality rate for legal induced abortion in the United States was 0.41 deaths per 100,000 compared with 17.4 per 100,000 per live birth. In the view of both justices, the lives and bodily autonomy of pregnant people should be sacrificed in favor of infant market demands that are eerily reminiscent of human trafficking.

As longtime proponents of civil and equal rights, we are greatly alarmed about additional constitutional rights that will be in jeopardy if this majority draft opinion stands and is issued in a ruling in June. 

Dana Sandweiss

Alito’s opinion states that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. … The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

The Constitution, a 4,400-word document creating a foundation of fundamental laws that was crafted by 55 white men in 1787,  also does not mention women or the word “she” or even suggest that the authors regarded women as part of “We the People.”  Most women then did not legally exist as people, could not vote and were not part of the ratifying conventions in the 13 states.

Alito’s draft opinion disregards the right to privacy as derived from the 14th Amendment’s concept of personal liberty. If this draft became law, Alito could set in motion constitutional challenges to additional unenumerated rights derived from the 14th Amendment, including same-sex marriage, interracial marriage and even contraception.

Abortions have been part of pregnancies since time began, and restrictions in the early 1800’s were designed to protect against fraudulent poisoning and untrained practitioners. Abortion was commonplace into the 21st century, practiced and visible, mostly among upper-class Protestant women who could afford physician care. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that abortion became a Christian evangelical tool to further the right wing conservative political movement.

We know that banning abortions will not stop abortions, only safe abortions.  People will die.

We believe that none of us should stand silently by while our highest court attacks our sacred religious liberties, attempting to render us mute from the control over our own bodies and basic human dignity.

Stacey Newman, a retired Missouri state legislator, is the executive director of ProgressWomen, a statewide social justice group focused on justice and equality issues. Dana Sandweiss is a board member of ACLU of Missouri and co-founder of Access MO, a statewide political action committee inspired by Jewish values that embraces and advocates for reproductive freedom and health care.