Last week, we were honored to represent the Jewish community at an interfaith prayer service organized by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington at the recently opened Planned Parenthood health center in Northeast D.C.
We stood in solidarity with leaders of other faiths, demonstrating our resolute support of reproductive health, rights and justice for all women. We stood also in support of Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable, quality preventive health care and treatment to 2.7 million people across the United States.
Our deep commitment to reproductive rights is not in spite of our religious beliefs, but because of them. Like RCRC, we believe this is an important element of religious leadership now.
The Reform Jewish movement has long advocated for reproductive rights — since before the Roe v. Wade decision — knowing that the pursuit of equality for women includes full and robust access to reproductive health services, including abortion.
Jewish Women International has a long history of reproductive rights advocacy and works to ensure that all women have access to affordable, comprehensive reproductive health services, from abortion services to contraception to family planning. We will continue to raise a strong faith voice — with so many of our partners in the Jewish community — in support of unrestricted access to reproductive health care.
The new Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington health center will serve thousands of women and men in the area. This means that individuals will have access to high-quality reproductive health services, such as family planning, contraception, sexually transmitted infection tests and treatments, prenatal care and pregnancy tests, breast examinations and cancer screenings.
This new health center in our nation’s capital, and powerful and diverse support from people of faith, also provides a potent contrast as uncertainties about future access to contraception and abortion loom large.
On Jan. 5, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that the House’s budget resolution will end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Hyde Amendment prevents federal government dollars from covering abortion services, so this budget would actually block the millions of women and men who rely on government health insurance programs from accessing any care at Planned Parenthood health centers. Ryan’s announcement sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the future of women’s healthcare nationwide, with particularly damaging impact on low-income communities and women of color.
Yet, the new Planned Parenthood center, just blocks from Capitol Hill, is a symbol of resilience. It reminds us to deepen our efforts to ensure that all Americans have the ability to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare and are afforded the dignity to make personal decisions about their own bodies.
From our shared and individual experiences, as Jewish advocates for reproductive rights, as parents and Americans, and uniquely as a rabbi and as a leader of a Jewish feminist organization, we believe that in order for women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, they need unfettered access to health care.
We have a responsibility to ensure that all people can access comprehensive reproductive health services. Jewish tradition commands us to respect our bodies and to strive for health as a means of honoring our relationship to God. Our fundamental belief in the importance of health is reflected in Jewish law teaching that abortion is both moral and correct when a woman’s mental or physical health is threatened. As Americans who value the freedom of all in our country to make their own personal healthcare decisions, we care deeply about the future of Planned Parenthood.
Our morals and our Jewish values compel us to raise our voices in support of reproductive rights and access to healthcare. We must stand together in support of reproductive rights, and the crucial work that Planned Parenthood does for millions of people across the United States. We must unite to ensure that all people are able to access the healthcare they need and deserve.
Lori Weinstein is the CEO of Jewish Women International. Rabbi Michael Namath is the program director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and serves on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.