Tuesday, January 01, 2013

"'The Jewish womb belongs to the Jewish people'"

Sometimes a story fits so perfectly with a WWPD tag that it simply demands a post, even if it's a difficult one to write, and one that leaves me with more questions than answers. 

Roni Abramson writes in Haaretz (behind a quasi-paywall) about the difficulties of getting an abortion in Israel. Not because Jewish law is especially strict in this regard, but because More Jewish Babies. The Holocaust, Jewish men marrying out... if you're a Jewish woman with Jewish-woman-parts, what you do with those parts is of great interest to a great many people who aren't you or your family. Abramson describes her own ordeal, as well as a sign she saw at a rally that read, “'The Jewish womb belongs to the Jewish people.'” Gosh. As an owner of one of said wombs, I'm going to have to say no, it does not. (Ross Douthat already claimed all American wombs for the American people. Dibs and all that.) 

Despite a professed interest in Jewish natalism, I hadn't known the details of Israeli abortion law - all I'd known was that Israel places a high priority on fertility. Impossible to link to, but also in my head as I write this post: heaps and heaps and heaps of anecdotal evidence. 

While I personally didn't need convincing, I fear that the specifics of Abramson's story, though, may not win over the unconvinced:
Of all the examinations and personal questions I had to endure about the status of my relationship and the quality of the condoms I bought, the meeting that stands out the most is the one with a social worker. The pleasant woman who chose the most giving profession on earth tossed questions at me from an official form. She could not understand why a healthy, educated young woman of 24 would not want to continue her pregnancy. 
“Why do you want to have an abortion?” she asked in astonishment. “Because even though I want to keep on living with my partner and have children with him eventually, I’m still studying for my bachelor’s degree and working part-time, so I don’t see any way I can raise this baby.” Surprised at my honesty, she asked what my partner thought. “He feels the same way I do,” I answered. “We want to live together without children at this stage in our lives.”
Maybe it's that I've been reading about the perils of thinking one can always have a baby "eventually," but as much as I agree with Abramson that she was treated terribly, and that nothing good can come of society outlawing abortion in these circumstances, this is a case where I see the right but - and here, the perils of overshare, the temptation it brings to judge individual cases as opposed to societal trends - find myself wondering if this is really the case that best gets the point across. If you do want kids, and with your current partner, and so does said partner, but at 27 (say) rather than 24... I suppose where I'm going with this is, there are reasons other than More Jewish Babies, other than an abortion-is-murder stance, that someone might question the wisdom of this particular woman's decision. Especially given that (as is my understanding? has this changed in recent years?) Israel has more of a social-safety net.

But maybe that's precisely what makes this the right story to use to make this point. If we learned of a woman carrying a fetus with major, life-threatening deformities, or one that resulted from rape or incest, or if the "woman" was a 16-year-old girl, or a grown woman without a partner/support system, we might conclude, individual circumstances trump More Jewish Babies, assuming we were on the MJB bandwagon, which, of course, we are not. But here, it's a clear-cut case of choice. Abramson knew what was right for her, and as much as the reader might find this not the best reason to get an abortion, it's not about the reader, but the woman who would or would not be carrying this pregnancy to term. Only Abramson could know what was right for her, and it shouldn't have had to fall on her to articulate why she wanted an abortion in a way that some panel (or Haaretz reader!) found sympathetic. It comes down to something every woman at a given time knows - if she's prepared to give birth to (and likely raise) a child at that point or not, something that quite possibly can't be explained sufficiently to others whose uterus it is not.

In other words, even if some will find Abramson's reasons "decadent," the deciding vote, womb-wise, goes not to the party with the best argument, but to the one whose womb it is.

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