I’ll never forget Sarah. Sarah was a young woman who sought me out for guidance and support during a very troubling time. She had had sexual intercourse for the first time. Not only was she devastated that afterward the guy revealed that he didn’t really like her as much as she liked him, but also she was nervous about being pregnant. They had had unprotected sex.
As her rabbi, I held Sarah’s hand as she waited for the at-home pregnancy test to reveal its results. (Thankfully, it was negative.) As her rabbi, I counseled her about opening up to her mother. As her rabbi, I urged her to learn more about contraception and make an appointment either with her gynecologist or at the local Planned Parenthood. Thankfully, those services were available to her.
As a woman and a Jew I am committed to protecting the rights of women everywhere to make their own decisions about their bodies. As a woman and a Jew I am committed to protecting the rights of women everywhere to make their own reproductive choices. This is why I have endorsed the Religious Institute’s new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning.
I am deeply honored to have been amongst the dozen Christian (mainline, Evangelical and Roman Catholic), Jewish and Muslim theologians that created the Open Letter. In a day of dialog and discussion, together we affirmed that, “in a just world, all people would have equal access to contraception. The denial of family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing is an insult to human dignity.” Together we called on hospitals and health services, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide or refer to contraceptive services. And together we urged religious leaders to “advocate for increased U.S. financial support for domestic and global family planning services.”
Our Reform Movement has long been at the forefront of supporting family planning and women’s reproductive rights. As far back as 1935 the Women of Reform Judaism passed a resolution expressing support for the lifting of bans on the dissemination of birth control literature. Each of the major advocacy voices of our Movement (the URJ, the CCAR, and WRJ) have regularly reaffirmed their support of women’s reproductive rights and commitment to women’s reproductive health every time the issue has arisen in political debate. We have not backed away from our Movement’s support of this critical issue.
Once again, we are debating about a woman’s access to accurate reproductive health services and contraception. We must let our nation’s leaders know how we feel. As Reform Jews, we must resist those who would deny individuals the ability to make their own personal decisions about their families and reproductive lives. As the Open Letter states, we must “oppose any attempt to make specific religious doctrine concerning pregnancy, childbirth, or contraception the law of any country in the world. Religious groups themselves must respect the beliefs and values of other faiths, since no single faith can claim final moral authority in domestic or international discourse.”
If you are a Jewish professional, please add your name to the list of endorsers by clicking here. If you are a member of a congregation, please ask your congregational professionals to add their name and express your own support by joining the Faithful Voices Network. Let us demonstrate to all who would once again limit contraception that people of faith understand that “contraception saves lives, promotes human flourishing, and advances the common good.”
Image courtesy of Getty Images.
Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, RJE is an expert in educating and engaging teens and young adults within institutions of Jewish learning. She is the editor of the URJ’s Sacred Choices: Adolescent Relationships and Sexual Ethics curricula.