The Morning After Pill and Judaism

Print this page Print this page

The statement also asserted that studies have shown that emergency contraception does not increase promiscuity in teenagers.

"There should never be any restriction placed on any form of birth control, abortion, etc.," said Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Sholom in River Edge. "I think that the woman's right to choose is something we must strongly guard."

Further, he said, the pill does not even pose any halakhic restrictions because according to his movement's understanding, the embryo is not considered potential life in the first 40 days after conception.

Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, of the Orthodox Kehilat Kesher in Englewood, agreed that the pill does not pose much of a halakhic problem "because the pill must be taken within 72 hours. According to the Talmud, the first 40 days, the embryo is called 'mayim be'elma,' simply water."

The Orthodox movement generally prohibits abortion, though, except when the fetus threatens the life of the mother. In that case, said Fox, the mother's life always takes precedence over that of the unborn life. And when a fetus has certain known genetic defects, many Orthodox rabbis would condone abortion. It is almost universally condoned in the case of rape.

As for contraception, most mainstream Orthodox rabbis hold that within marriage, certain forms, such as the birth control pill or the IUD, which do not change the act of sex, are permissible, while condoms, which block sperm from entering a woman's body, are not, said Fox.

"This is more a cultural or social issue," he said. "The question is what does it mean that sex is removed of consequence? But that is the reality we live in. People can have sex without having kids."

But Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesman for the fervently Orthodox Agudath Israel, which typically falls to the right of the Orthodox Union, said the issue is not that simple. Agudath Israel has not taken a position on the Plan B pill.

"Needless to say, we deplore the culture of abortion that has resulted in the routine abortion of considerably advanced fetuses even when there are no truly compelling justifications," Shafran told The Jewish Standard. "And we favor the revocation of Roe [v. Wade], with exceptions in special circumstances. But, as noted, we have not taken a position on 'Plan B,' which is designed to prevent conception or interrupt gestation at a very early stage, and is self-administered. To us, the public policy field here is Roe's carte blanche endorsement of abortion as a woman's 'right.'"

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Jacob Berkman is a staff writer for the Jewish Telgraphic Agency.