Jewish Views on Partial Birth Abortion

Most (but not all) rabbinic authorities consider "partial birth abortion" on the same terms as other abortions.

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The woman’s “rabbinic authorities agreed, and so the hospital complied,” said Feldman.

Advances Pose New Problems

Dr. Ronny Meier, a Bergenfield obstetrician who is also an Orthodox Jew, further explained the conundrum. “Until a couple of years ago…[fetuses] under 28 weeks were not viable.” He explained that now, with the new technologies available, it is possible to keep some babies alive even when they are born much earlier.

In fact, according to National Center for Health Care Statistics, 22-week fetuses have a 14.8 percent chance of survival and by 24 weeks that rate rises to 41 percent, although many of the “micropreemies” who survive such early births suffer from moderate to severe disabilities. According to those figures, medical science is getting so adept at keeping the smallest premature babies alive, that fetuses legally aborted at 22 to 24 weeks could have a significant chance of survival.

The best way to avoid the problems inherent in later-term abortions, said Meier, is for women to be aware of their options early on. He recommended that “there should be more education to prevent pregnancy to begin with. And if somebody gets pregnant they should go to a doctor right away and discuss…all these things very early in the pregnancy, and make a decision very early in the pregnancy and not wait until they are halfway through.”

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Dr. Miryam Z. Wahrman

Dr. Miryam Z. Wahrman is a Professor of Biology at William Patterson College in Wayne, New Jersey. She set up and ran the first in vitro fertilization laboratory in New York City and is the author of Brave New Judaism: When Science and Scripture Collide.