Protest against the reversal of abortion rights in front of the Supreme Court, May 2, 2022. (Photo/Miki Jourdan-Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Protest against the reversal of abortion rights in front of the Supreme Court, May 2, 2022. (Photo/Miki Jourdan-Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

How California Jews can pursue justice for reproductive rights

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When I was 7 years old, my mom took me canvassing in our neighborhood for the Connecticut National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). She taught me at a very young age that we all need to fight for what we believe in, and what is right.

Now, as a mother myself, I try my best to instill in my kids the Jewish values of justice and honoring the dignity and autonomy of each person. Since my boys were very young, they have attended marches and worked with me on political campaigns for candidates committed to ensuring that every individual has the right to make decisions about their lives and bodies, including the right to decide if and when to have children.

I have worked to advance reproductive health and rights for more than 25 years. In my professional and personal life, I have been sounding the alarm about the pending demise of Roe over the past two decades.

Nevertheless, seeing in print the nightmare scenario we have been anticipating was absolutely devastating.

The leaked draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is a clear and grave indication that our nation’s highest court is on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade. The 98-page draft reeks of misogyny and unravels 50 years of precedent affirming the fundamental right to privacy.

If the final decision, expected in late June or early July, is even close to the draft that was published by Politico on May 2, access to safe and legal abortion will be out of reach for millions as soon as it is released, and the health and lives of women in dozens of states across the country will be at risk.

Since reading the draft, I have oscillated between profound sadness and anger. But this is no time to throw our hands up in despair.

This fight is not over, and as Jews, our faith and traditions must compel us to act.

My hero, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was frank about the importance of Jewish tradition and how it influenced her life and career. “The demand for justice,” she explained, “runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition.”

The text from Deuteronomy “Justice, justice we shall pursue” was prominent in her office, hanging on three walls so she could look up and see it from wherever she sat. Justice Ginsburg often wore this important phrase around her collar. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to listen to my son recite this exact Torah portion at his bar mitzvah four years ago.

RELATED: 2 Jewish legislators take lead on abortion rights in California

We are so fortunate to live in California, where the majority of our policymakers are committed to expanding, not limiting, access to reproductive health care. California has a long history of leadership in enacting innovative policies to protect access to comprehensive reproductive health services that have served as models for many other states.

At Essential Access Health, we have led the charge in conjunction with coalition partners from the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and California Abortion Alliance, including the National Council of Jewish Women, to pass more than a dozen proactive pieces of legislation expanding reproductive rights across the state.

We now have an opportunity to put Jewish teachings and beliefs into practice. The California Future of Abortion Council (FAB Council) released a report in December with more than 45 recommendations for protecting and expanding abortion care within our state borders. There are now 13 bills and budget asks advancing through the Legislature focused on making abortion access more equitable and affordable, strengthening legal protections, providing practical support for individuals seeking abortion care and increasing our abortion-provider workforce.

Bay Area elected leaders, including state Sen. Nancy Skinner and Assembly members Buffy Hicks and Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, are leading on many of these important measures.

You can put your Jewish values into action by contacting your representatives at the state level and urging them to support the full slate of FAB Council policy priorities.

Access to reproductive health care must not only be protected but also expanded over the next four years. The Biden administration and Democratic leadership in Congress have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to restore and expand access to sexual and reproductive health care nationwide.

The Women’s Health Protection Act seeks to codify the right to abortion into federal law, and the bill will be up for a vote in the coming weeks. Use your voice as a constituent to help ensure that every member of our California congressional delegation not only votes yes, but also meets this moment by being an outspoken champion for choice.

We cannot accept restrictions on an individual’s ability to access essential health care services.

Together, as a Jewish community, it is critical that we do not remain idle.

We must protect everyone’s right to access comprehensive family planning and abortion services — for generations to come.

We have power to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Justice justice we shall — and must — pursue.

Julie Rabinovitz

Julie Rabinovitz, MPH, is president and CEO at Essential Access Health, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that champions and promotes sexual and reproductive health care for all. For details or to make a donation, visit