The April 21 Outlook article “5 Myths about abortion” began with the distinction between “a fetus’s right to life” and “a woman’s right to choose.” That well-known formulation should be amended to reflect a woman’s right to life. Many faiths accord priority in various degrees to the fully formed life of the mother over the not-yet-fully formed life of the fetus. In Judaism, the right to life of the mother enjoys such precedence. The codification and interpretation of Jewish religious law over millenniums has generated different opinions of what constitutes danger, but the principle is clear. This concept resonates in other religions, too.
The traditional “right-to-life” approach, protecting the fetus under most, if not all, circumstances, is drawn from other faith traditions and deserves respect insofar as it applies to their adherents. However, when legislators seek to extend it to all women, they are both establishing religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof, in violation of the two first clauses of the First Amendment. The recognition of these fundamental spiritual differences should lead to the overdue removal of the entire issue of abortion from the public agenda.