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The Last Civil Conversation on Abortion?

Monday, June 27, 2022 @ 03:06 PM
posted by Roger Price
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On Thursday, June 23, 2022, one day before the Supreme Court’s momentous decision in the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., three Jews got together to talk about Jews, Judaism, and Abortion. Rabbi Andrea London, rabbi at Beth Emet – The Free Synagogue, in Evanston, Illinois hosted the event. The other participants were Dr. Elisheva D. Shanes, Director of Autopsy in the Department of Pathology and Assistant Professor of Pathology (Perinatal and Gynecologic) at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, and Roger Price, author of When Judaism Meets Science, and the Blogmaster of this blog. 

Over the course of about ninety (90) minutes, the trio talked about Jewish attitudes, traditional Jewish texts, Jewish values, and Jewish arguments in the Supreme Court, all regarding when human life begins, abortion, and other related topics, including the science of biology. As you will see and hear, there were times of agreement and times of disagreement, but as you will also see and hear the discussion among the participants was respectful and civil in tone. 

Discussions on abortion, before the Court’s decision in Dobbs, and certainly after, have often not been marked by a desire to listen to and learn from opposing views, much less to consider whether there are points of agreement on which some consensus could be built. Part of that arises from the nature of the issue, as the maintenance or termination of a pregnancy often presents stark alternative scenarios for the pregnant woman and the fetus or embryo she is carrying. But those scenarios should not preclude compassion for those involved, rather they should make more urgent the importance of reasoning together. After all, Hillel did not ask simply “If I am not for me, who will be for me?” He also asked “If I am only for myself, what am I?” The great empathetic rabbi recognized that life can be messy, that we can be presented with situations where values and traditions are in conflict with each other. 

Resolutions of tough issues will not come from reflexive rhetoric, bumper sticker philosophies, incomplete and distorting memes, or, for sure, the loudest bullhorn. They will come, if at all, by a willingness to be both caring and thoughtfully constructive with respect to some of the most difficult circumstances any of us will have to face. Please don’t let this be the last civil conversation on abortion.

The entire conversation can be accessed here, with the conversation beginning about seven (7) minutes into the recording:

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