When I got married almost nine years ago, I knew that we wanted to start a family right away. That was the expected trajectory in my Orthodox circle and, at 27, I felt ready to become a mother. Well, as ready as anyone can ever feel for something so huge and unknowable.
Our family has since grown to four children. It sounds so simple when I type it like that, but it’s been quite a journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my limitations, my strengths, how to manage expectations, and how to accept that I will never entirely feel like I know what I’m doing.
In my community, large families are normal. Pregnancy is viewed as a blessing. Raising children is seen as a high calling. Children born with disabilities are viewed as lofty souls. Being a parent is a partnership undertaken with none other than God. We take sanctity of life very seriously.
Even with this perspective, there’s still nuance when it comes to terminating a pregnancy. I am hardly an expert in this area of Jewish law, but even with my cursory understanding I can see that it’s not always such a cut and dry matter. It definitely doesn’t conform neatly with either the pro-choice or pro-life camps.
I’ve never been in the incredibly difficult position of needing an abortion, but it’s certainly not a decision I want the government making on my behalf. However, that is a possibility for me at this exact moment, since, as a resident of Ohio, the House recently passed a bill that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected (usually around six weeks).
I think I get what the lawmakers are doing. I understand that they think they are preserving life. I understand why that is important to them. I also deeply value life. But I strongly disagree that this is the way to honor that value, and I even more strongly disagree that the government would get to make that call for me.
With such a deeply personal decision, I should be able to consult my own religious guide, not be at the mercy of a legislator who subscribes to a different belief set than I do.
Jo Ingles of Ohio Public Radio reported that Republican Rep. Jim Buchy said he thought passage of the Heartbeat Bill would encourage personal responsibility. He said, “What we have here is really the need to give people the incentive to be more responsible so we reduce unwanted pregnancies…
Not only do I disagree with Representative Buchy that this legislation would serve as an incentive (I suspect it would lead to an increase in the Google search terms “how to end a pregnancy”), but it would also be punitive for victims of rape, incest, and also women who would need to terminate a pregnancy that was not, in fact, unwanted.
The bill has no nuance.
This bill, HB493, is actually intended to streamline how child abuse and neglect can be reported. That is, I think, a good thing. But shortly before the bill was voted on, some lines were added which would, if passed, give Ohio the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country.
Once the bill is on Governor Kasich’s desk he has 10 days to decide whether or not to sign it into law. Instead of vetoing the entire bill, Governor Kasich could choose to do a line-veto option, which would allow all the child abuse legislation to pass without passing the lines restricting our reproductive rights.
This kind of legislation has been found unconstitutional in two previous cases, when North Dakota and Arkansas passed similar bills which were later struck down by the Supreme Court.
So even if the bill passes, it is unlikely to stand. But if it passes, that means that there will probably be a lot of tax dollars spent in litigation, and I’d really rather my tax dollars be spent somewhere else. Like repainting the lines on I-271. They’re really hard to see at night (just an fyi, OH-DOT).
More seriously, that money could be spent to help stem the opioid crisis that is wracking our state. Ohio is leading the nation in both heroin and synthetic opioids deaths.
Or we could be sure to properly fund our children’s education, create jobs for the unemployed, bolster the economy, or provide affordable health care and child care. Those are all things we could do for people who have already been born and are currently living in Ohio.
I’m grateful to live in a country where I’m able to practice Judaism freely, and am able to give my children a religious education and teach them about Jewish tradition without the stress of governmental interference. I would like to keep it that way.