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Hundreds of Jews rally at the U.S. Capitol for abortion rights

Jewish views on abortion are complex across the ideological spectrum, but law and tradition do not ban it

Protesters attend the “Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice” at Union Square near the U.S. Capitol on May 17. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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A previous version of this article switched the first names of Diana Dubrawsky and her daughter, Hadas. This article has been corrected.

More than 1,000 Jews from progressive to orthodox — including dozens of rabbis — rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday for abortion rights, holding signs that read “Thou shalt not steal my rights,” “democracy not theocracy,” and “we will live by the mitzvot, not die by them.”

Jewish views on abortion are complex across the ideological spectrum, but law and tradition do not ban it and don’t recognize an unborn fetus as a full legal person. And 83 percent of U.S. Jews say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew Research. Speakers and ralliers described their responses to the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade that was leaked recently as angry, scared, shocked and feeling like a basic religious liberty could be taken from them. (A final decision is due sometime before early July.)

“I’m enraged that this Supreme Court would codify right-wing Christian values for the entire country. I am now a one-issue voter and I’m so freaking mad. Women will die,” said Hadas Dubrawsky, 60, a Kemp Mill, Md., homemaker who was there with her 21-year-old daughter. “Even corpses have the right to bodily autonomy. You can’t take an organ from someone dead without permission. Somehow women are less than a corpse.”

Dubrawsky held aloft a sign that said “NO ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION. FREE EXERCISE.”

Her daughter, Diana, part of a crowd that was heavy with 20-somethings, started to cry as she talked about feeling that ending the constitutional right to abortion violated what she was taught in religious day school growing up.

“I was always taught: ‘You have a voice.’ And to watch the detrimental change that’s happening to women’s health is terrifying. It goes against everything I was taught. My voice doesn’t matter.”

The threat to Roe v. Wade is driving a religious movement for reproductive choice

There have been multiple small and large rallies in D.C. and in other U.S. cities since the draft opinion was leaked. While Catholic-run antiabortion rallies are common, Tuesday showed some of the faith-based side of the abortion rights movement.

The majority of members of most faith groups say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, Pew Research shows, including 82 percent of Buddhists, 55 percent of Muslims, 53 percent of Orthodox Christians and 68 percent of Hindus. The country’s biggest faith groups are Catholics, who are split roughly 50-50, and evangelical Protestants, 33 percent of whom support access while 63 percent oppose it.

Speakers Tuesday worked to encourage and motivate the crowd, with one rabbi reminding them of the core Jewish narrative of leaving and rejecting the values of Egypt and experiencing a long period in the desert. Outlawing abortion, said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, is unjust and a kind of “Egypt,” and the road to a promised land is “not easy or short.”

More than 100 Jewish groups co-sponsored the event, and speakers included Black, non-Jewish clergy and LGBTQ leaders who all characterized the ability to make reproductive decisions as a human right. The event was organized by the National Council Of Jewish Women, which announced earlier in the week it would for the first time in its 129-year history directly fund another group, the National Abortion Federation. The funds will “help people access and receive abortion care.”

About a half-dozen people who said they were Jewish and held antiabortion signs on the fringe of the event sparred with a few participants.

“I’ve had an abortion and I don’t need your card,” Sonya Michel, a retired University of Maryland women’s history professor, told Cecily Routman, an antiabortion activist from Pennsylvania who was offering a business card with a logo of a mother and baby inside a Jewish star.

“I would have taken that baby for you,” Routman said.

“I’m not a baby machine,” Michel snapped. “Having a baby isn’t some simple thing with no impact on your body.”

The woman next to Michel held a sign that read: “This Jewish grandma is still pissed off.”

Antiabortion advocate worked for years to overturn Roe, but worries over next steps

An hour after the Jewish event, up the street outside the Supreme Court, about 150 antiabortion protesters rallied with evangelical worship leader and right-wing former congressional candidate Sean Feucht. They raised their hands and cheered as speakers said the court’s conservative majority was the answer to their prayers to abolish abortion.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) also led the crowd in prayer against abortion as supporters yelled “Hallelujah!”