1. Over the last year, the American public has been extremely divided over the Supreme Court decision undoing the Constitutional protection to have an abortion known as Roe v. Wade.
As religious Jews, we naturally are happy about such a stain — protecting the right to commit an act so terrible as abortion, which in many cases is akin to murder — being removed from the federal legal system of a “malchus shel chesed” (a sovereignty of kindness) and from the Constitution, a document that has much respect for religion and Divine morals.
However, it is also an opportunity for us to re-examine these terms of “pro-life” and “pro-choice”, as well as taking a moment to focus on what this has to do with us as Chassidim.
2. By Divine Providence, the use of the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” to describe the two sides of this bitter debate, are an opportunity for us to discuss another related matter.
There’s a very interesting question raised by the Tzemach Tzedek (in Or Hatorah — Shemos Vol. 8 p. 3003). The Tzemach Tzedek discusses the prohibition against shituf; namely, that in addition to the prohibition of avoda zara and believing ch"v in another deity, there’s an erroneous belief that Hashem has partners in running the world.
The proper Jewish belief is that there is “none else aside from Him”, and Hashem runs the world absolutely by Himself without any other force or power. All other powers that govern the world — the angels, the planets, and the like — are merely “an ax in the hand of the hewer”. They have no say or opinion, and therefore, it is completely wrongful to present them with requests.
However, our Sages of blessed memory, tell us that there are three partners in the creation of a human being: the father, the mother, and Hashem. The father and the mother each contribute certain aspects to the physical body, and Hashem, as the principal partner, puts in the neshama, and therefore, we have the mitzva of honoring one’s parents.
Incidentally, in the Aseres HaDibros, the first five commandments are associated with the relationship between man and G-d, and the final five pertain to the relationship with our fellow human beings. However, the mitzva of kibud av va’eim is in the first five, and the reason for that is because respecting our parents is in essence respecting all three partners, not only our parents, but the other Partner as well. (Ramban on Shemos 20:13)
How can this be reconciled with the prohibition against shituf?
The explanation is (see Likkutei Sichos Vol 36 p. 90-95) that Judaism is very much a “pro-choice” religion. Hashem gives us the power to make choices in our lives, and while the sun and the moon have no choice whether to give heat or light, the father and mother certainly have a choice whether to bring life into the world. Thus, when they make that proper choice, it is something that should be celebrated and respected, and we do appreciate them entering a partnership with G-d being pro-choice and pro-life by choosing to create life.
3. As religious Jews, we ch"v don’t exercise our “choice” to end fetal life even in states that allow unjustified abortions. Yiddishkeit is a religion which views human — even fetal — life as sacred. But as regards the choice to create life, it is very important to raise a topic that the Rebbe has publicized and spoken about a great deal — the issue of family planning.
This is a topic that can seem very appealing and moral to some: responsibly bringing into the world only the number of children they feel that they can handle.
However, the Rebbe has said on many occasions that so-called “family planning” — apart from the fact that it isn’t healthy or safe for the parents — is first and foremost a very loud and outspoken lack of bitachon, rejecting the third and principal Partner’s ability to sustain the life that only He can create.
Of course, when there are legitimate health and halachic concerns, a rav should be consulted as to what is the proper course of action. However, calculations of comfort and so-called “quality of life” concerns are antithetical to Torah values and should be out of the question for a couple that keeps Shabbos, Kashrus, Taharas Hamishpacha and sends their children to yeshivos and religious schools.
4. If assimilation is the “silent holocaust,” then I think we can say that family planning is “silent abortion.”
I know it’s a harsh statement to make. Naturally, abortion stands out as something considerably more gruesome; it’s the actual ending of a life already conceived. But this statement is based on the words of Chazal.
The Gemara (Sotah 12a) tells us that when Pharaoh made his terrible decree of “Every son who is born, you shall cast into the Nile” Amram said, “Why are we having children in vain when they will end up being killed?”
Miriam his daughter told Amram, "Your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s. Pharaoh’s decree only affects the males, and your decree affects the unborn females as well. Additionally, when a child is born, even if ch“v he will not survive, he can reach the World to Come, whereas an unborn child does not have that privilege.
So yes, just as “pro-choice” in abortion laws is rightfully a sickening thought, we should at least have a similar reaction when it comes to being “pro-choice” in family planning and giving legitimacy to limiting Hashem’s brachos by not bringing children into the world.
Of course, this is not about getting involved in other people’s choices, but in all candor, we are living in a world where everyone confronts such an option. Therefore, before deciding on this matter, we ought to understand the ramifications.
Both ending the life of an unborn child and not allowing another child to be conceived, are choices that Hashem gives us. While one has worse optics than the other, the bottom line is that regardless of the reasons why this child is being illegitimately and unhalachically denied the opportunity to enter this world, the decrees of ending a life and not allowing it to begin carry equal weight.
Let us be pro the right choices.