As the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches on Jan. 22, the National Council of Jewish Women is warning supporters of reproductive rights against complacency. Long an advocate for access to abortion services, NCJW notes that despite the landmark ruling legalizing the procedure, states have erected barriers that mean fewer providers, bans on insurance coverage, and provisions meant to stall or discourage women from seeking an abortion.
NJJN spoke with national president Linda Slucker, a resident of West Orange, about the current challenges facing women’s healthcare and choices and the stakes for the Jewish community.
NJJN: How is abortion a Jewish issue?
Linda Slucker: It’s a religious rights issue. Every woman should have the right to make her own decision, with her family, based on her own faith and her own morality. It’s the core of our ability to make our own decisions. It is not something legislators should be deciding. For me, I was a really young woman when Roe was decided. I unfortunately know several women who, before Roe, had to face tough decisions about ending a pregnancy. They had nowhere to go, and it was potentially very dangerous. If I had to make a decision of this magnitude, I would want it to be my decision, my family’s decision, based on my faith and my values. Reproductive rights are central and integrally tied to religious freedom and liberty. No one should be able to impose their religious viewpoint on anyone else.
NJJN: What are the biggest challenges to abortion services today, from a national perspective?
Slucker: There are so many states — 24 states — that have enacted 92 provisions restricting abortion. The Hyde Amendment withholds coverage for abortion care on the federal payroll. How many women working in the federal government will find they are not covered for reproductive care? And states have their own individual restrictions, although we are lucky that here in New Jersey this is not an issue. But much of what we fought long and hard for is being rolled back.
NJJN: What about here in New Jersey?
Slucker: Since 2008, there has been a 12 percent decrease in abortion providers in the state. Women are finding it more difficult to access services.
NJJN: What can women do if they support abortion rights?
Slucker: Keep the conversation going. Young women in particular who have only known access take it for granted. They need to step up and make sure access is not rolled back. I’m not sure they can imagine life without Roe. It’s very frightening. We are also asking [NCJW] sections across the country to do lobby days: Go to your state representatives and talk to them about Roe and your own personal stories. Talk with your family, your friends, your neighbors. And keep in mind that it’s not just Roe v. Wade but all health-care provisions for women. We have to make sure the providers are there and that we have access to the providers we need.