Woman assemble post-abortion kits at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Aug. 20, 2023.
(Photo/Stuart Yusem)
Woman assemble post-abortion kits at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Aug. 20, 2023. (Photo/Stuart Yusem)

Jewish women assemble post-abortion care packages to offer ‘meaningful support’

The 30 volunteers in the social hall of Congregation Beth Am worked with speed and determination, filling canvas bags with chocolates, maxi pads, heat packs, tea bags and cards of well wishes.

On a Sunday afternoon in August, they created more than 200 post-abortion care packages for patients at the Women’s Option Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and at FPA Women’s Health clinics in Berkeley, Modesto and Sacramento.

The National Council of Jewish Women San Francisco coordinated the event with the Reform synagogue’s reproductive justice committee. It was the fourth event tied to women’s reproductive health that the Los Altos Hills congregants have organized since April.

Sara Guido, a health care consultant with a doctorate in nursing, is chair of the synagogue’s reproductive justice committee. Guido has recently become more involved at the synagogue after retiring from a two-decade career in maternal-child health care, she said in an interview.

Like many others at the event, Guido is still angry about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to restrict or ban abortions.

Still, Guido said she knows that abortion advocates can take actions large and small, including offering meaningful support to women who have abortions in California, where the procedure remains legal.

“What we did today gave me hope,” Guido said. “It’s about tikkun olam. It’s about giving back and supporting women who are going through this process.”

Linda Kramer, who has experience both as an attorney and a registered nurse, has been a Beth Am member for five decades. She said she’s outraged at the way that the Dobbs decision has changed abortion rights throughout the country.

It makes me angry because now my granddaughters are faced with the same situation I faced when I was 18.

Kramer worked as a nurse in Philadelphia prior to the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. She recalled delivering babies from girls as young as 12. As children themselves, they lacked the maturity and financial resources to raise their babies and, in many cases, didn’t realize they were pregnant until they were far along.

“Sometimes they would come into the clinic thinking they just had a stomachache,” Kramer said.

Kramer witnessed the trauma of such pregnancies and is concerned that many girls and women find themselves in the same situation again now.

“It makes me angry because now my granddaughters are faced with the same situation I faced when I was 18,” Kramer said.

Rebecca Cormack of San Francisco, who works as administration and programs coordinator for NCJW’s S.F. section, helped plan the event. During high school and college, Cormack said, she realized that many women didn’t receive the same education and empowerment around sexual health that she had growing up. In her professional life, Cormack said, she’s been determined to help close this gap.

Cormack and many of the Beth Am volunteers expect to plan similar events. Cormack also wants to gather more support for “safe haven” legislation introduced this year by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland. Under SB 345, women who leave states where abortion is illegal to have abortions in California would be protected from prosecution in their home states.

Zoe Mahlmeister, who is 16, was one of a handful of young people among the volunteers at Beth Am’s Aug. 20 event. Mahlmeister is a congregant and a junior at nearby Mountain View High School. Like others there, she’s outraged about the Dobbs ruling and was eager to help out.

“I was very upset,” Mahlmeister said. “It just feels like we’re going backward.”

Despite the national setbacks, Mahlmeister appreciates that her synagogue is creating ways to help. She noted a large sign in the synagogue driveway that reads, “Reproductive freedom is a Jewish value.”

“I think Beth Am is so great about having those conversations,” Mahlmeister said. “They support me, and I feel welcome here.”

Yonatan Greenberg

J. correspondent