Jewish Women International at a protest for abortion rights in 2016. (Photo/Forward-Courtesy Jewish Women International)
Jewish Women International at a protest for abortion rights in 2016. (Photo/Forward-Courtesy Jewish Women International)

Jewish women are on the frontlines of the fight for abortion rights. We can’t give up hope now.

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“Didn’t we expect this to happen?”

That’s the text I sent to my advocacy team when news broke of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning both Roe and Casey.

I wasn’t being cavalier or defeatist. In the moment, I felt somehow numb. Anyone involved in abortion rights advocacy saw this coming from the moment Merrick Garland’s nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans. We heard it in the way then-nominees Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett responded to questions about abortion rights with legalese that allowed their answers to be interpreted as respecting Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood as “settled law” while still giving them pathways to overturn both decisions.

We knew this was coming. But that didn’t blunt the pain when the pen was put to paper.

Perhaps numbness is the feeling of hope draining. Before, we could try to imagine that even conservative judges would protect the hard-won rights over our own health care and bodies we have had for 49 years. But now we know, and yet what has happened, what is happening, is somehow unimaginable.

If the leaked SCOTUS ruling stands, in less than 60 days, women will become second-class citizens of this country.

RELATED: What Jewish law really says about abortion

Close to 70% of people in the United States support the federal right to reproductive choice. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe abortion is a decision made between a pregnant person and their physician. This ruling is being made by a minority of religious zealots. This is not democracy.

This ruling will not stop abortions: those with money, and those who live in states where abortion is legal or have the ability and financial means to travel to those states, will still have access. But many, many more women will not. Abortions will continue, but they will be difficult if not impossible to access — and dangerous.

Jewish Women International (then B’nai B’rith Women) and other Jewish organizations have fought for these rights before. We marched in 1973 and, in many ways, we have not stopped fighting.

If you care about life, you must care about abortion rights. Due to this ruling, women will die. It’s as simple as that.

Jewish women protesting for abortion rights in the 1970s. (Photo/Forward-Courtesy Jewish Women International)
Jewish women protesting for abortion rights in the 1970s. (Photo/Forward-Courtesy Jewish Women International)

If you care about poverty, you must care about abortion rights. Young people, Black and brown people, LGBTQ+ people, those living in poverty and the victims of rape, incest and intimate partner violence will bear the brunt of this decision. Strikingly, those who purport to be “pro-life” also stand against contraception and federally funded child care, meaning this decision will also result in more children being born into poverty. Funny how those who say they want to protect children seem to stop once those children are born.

If you care about health care, you must care about abortion rights. Abortion is a medical procedure, full stop. No one makes this decision lightly. Some are only outraged by state laws that do not make exceptions for rape or incest, as if to say these exceptions would make what is happening palatable. This is not the conversation we should be having. All abortion must be legal.

Talk to me about my friend, who desperately wanted a child, put herself through hell to get pregnant only to learn late in the pregnancy that the child would be born with devastating health implications. She and many other women would put their own life in danger  if they continued their pregnancies.

If you care about violence against women, you must care about abortion rights. Reproductive coercion (coercing a partner to have unprotected sex, sabotaging birth control methods to impregnate a partner against their wishes, and manipulating a survivor to stay in an abusive relationship) is often used by abusers to hold their victims in dangerous relationships, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 women.

And, do not think that those who have been fighting to take away our right to choose will stop there. Roe is based on the right to privacy. Once stripped away, the floodgates will open: the right to use contraception, marriage equality, transgender rights, the rights and autonomy of the physically disabled and those with mental illness are all in danger.

The impact of this devastating ruling will continue for at least a generation.

Our focus must shift to the legislative branch: If we, our families and our communities are to be protected, we must do everything in our power to elect legislators who will protect the right to abortion care.

Those who are able must run for office, donate to support pro-choice candidates, and support access to safe medical interventions like Plan C. The lives of our most vulnerable depend on it.

We owe it — not only to our daughters, but to our mothers and grandmothers, who marched and fought 50 years ago — to fight back. We owe it to the Jewish women whose religious liberty will be trampled if they can’t access abortion. We owe it to all who died, and all who will die, seeking abortion care.

We must push past the numbness and fuel our fight with hope.

Meredith Jacobs

Meredith Jacobs is the CEO of Jewish Women International.


Content reprinted with permission from the Forward. Sign up here to get the Forward's free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.