"I WILL AID AND ABET ABORTION," reads a defiant sign in front of the Supreme Court the morning that the decision to overturn Roe was released, June 24, 2022. (Photo/Flickr-Victoria Pickering CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
"I WILL AID AND ABET ABORTION," reads a defiant sign in front of the Supreme Court the morning that the decision to overturn Roe was released, June 24, 2022. (Photo/Flickr-Victoria Pickering CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

‘Another dark day’: Bay Area Jewish leaders share outrage at abortion ruling

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Jewish politicians representing the Bay Area and leaders of major community nonprofits expressed outrage, sadness and resolve to take action after a Supreme Court decision Friday revoked a federal right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, a Mississippi case, found no constitutionally guaranteed right to terminate a pregnancy even in its very early stages, contradicting opinions signed by the court in 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The historic decision set the stage for “trigger laws” to go into effect in 13 states that would ban abortions in nearly all cases. Several other states are also expected to outlaw abortion, with very few exceptions for pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother.

Reaction from the Jewish world to the court’s decision was immediate, on a national as well as local level. According to polling data, American Jews support the right to an abortion more than any other religious group.

Among local Jewish politicians, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan of Orinda, who has led efforts in the California statehouse to strengthen abortion protections in the face of federal threats, called Friday “a sad, horrible and devastating day.”

“We knew this day was coming, and yet it’s hard to comprehend that our rights to control our own future and our own bodies were just ripped away from us,” Bauer-Kahan wrote. “This decision is unconscionable. It is devastating. The institution meant to protect us, has betrayed us.”

Among the initiatives Bauer-Kahan is championing is Assembly Bill 1666, which protects patients and providers in California from civil lawsuits originating in other states.

State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco shared his thoughts in a series of tweets, echoing a campaign slogan of Joe Biden’s: “This is a battle for the soul of our nation,” he wrote.

Wiener warned about a radical conservative movement that, in his view, could continue to erode constitutionally protected rights. He also outlined steps pro-choice lawmakers are taking in California, including a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

Rebecca Kaplan, an Oakland council member who is running for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, stressed her bona fides on the issue of abortion rights in a tweet, and the need for local politicians to take a stand.

“With rights being taken away by the Supreme Court, it is even more important to have strong pro-choice, pro-Justice leadership for our County, and to expand support for reproductive health services,” she wrote.

Kaplan has advocated for millions in county funds to be directed to Planned Parenthood.


RELATED: In Bay Area, local governments bolster resources as abortion rights fall


Local Jewish organizations were also swift to condemn the decision.

In a joint statement, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund — a powerful institution with combined philanthropic capital of over $2 billion — and Jewish Community Relations Council hammered the Supreme Court for a decision that, in their view, encroaches on the separation of church and state.

Joy Sisisky
Joy Sisisky
Tye Gregory
Tye Gregory

“We vehemently oppose any court decision or legislative effort that denies or delays an individual’s right to reproductive choice without the imposition of the government or any other party,” the statement, signed by Federation CEO Joy Sisisky and JCRC executive director Tye Gregory, read.

The statement asked members of the Jewish community to support AB 1666, the bill backed by Bauer-Kahan, and encouraged community giving to organizations that “safeguard the reproductive health of women.”

Since 2019, Federation donor-advised funds have given over $2.25 million to nonprofits working to enhance reproductive rights, a separate Federation statement said. (The Federation is a major donor to this publication.)

Rachel Nilson Ralston
Rachel Nilson Ralston

Rachel Nilson Ralston, who heads San Francisco Hillel, which serves college students across the city, wrote in a statement that “access to safe, accessible reproductive healthcare is important for our students” as they study and launch their careers. “We might not see restrictions here in San Francisco or California,” she added, “But it’s likely we’ll become a haven for Jewish students and professionals from other states.

“We’re activating our national network and reaffirming our support for our students as they question what’s next,” Ralston wrote.

Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, the executive director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis, added to the chorus of Jewish leaders who expressed outrage. To Zimmerman, the ruling represents an incursion into the religious rights of Jews, who do not believe that life begins at conception — the view powering the Christian right.

Rabbi Jill Zimmerman
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman

“With this new ruling rescinding the right to reproductive freedom, the Supreme Court has also transgressed the sacred separation of church and state,” she wrote in a J. op-ed. The decision “takes us right back to the dark ages of back-alley abortions in a wide swath of our country.”

And in Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg called Friday “another dark day for our country,” adding that “courts historically stand tall when they protect and expand individual rights, not strip them away.

“In one day, this court has taken away 50 years of a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive freedom, including abortion,” Steinberg wrote. “We must fight like never before to win back the fundamental freedoms that all women deserve.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.