Moshe Ben-Chaim



Reader: "xxxx" is a forty-year-old Jewish woman. She is the mother of four boys ranging in age from 19 to 12. Her husband xxxx, a successful lawyer, was recently killed by a drunk driver while walking to synagogue one Saturday morning. Shortly after the end of the shivah period, she discovered she was pregnant. At first elated by the thought that her late husband would somehow live on in the child, whom she intended to name for him even if it turned out to be a girl, she later became increasingly distressed by the thought of having a fifth child. Her next youngest child was twelve, she reasoned, and would be in college in six years, but now she would be tied to her role as a single mother for three times as long. Furthermore, she is trained as a teacher's aide and her annual income has been approximately one-tenth her husband's. If she has a fifth child, she anticipates not being able to work at all unless she puts the child in daycare for most of every day, which option she rejects as cruel and not in the child's best interest. Her own parents are deceased; she has not brothers or sisters. Her husband's life insurance was equal, roughly, to one year of his income. She will, therefore, run out of money before the baby is six month old and probably have to sell her home. As all these thoughts began to come together in xxxx's mind, she determined that she did not want to have the child she was carrying after all; and that she wished terminate the pregnancy. Unable to decide if she is being practical or self-centered, and also unsure if she can face the prospect of going through an abortion, she is becoming more and more distraught every day and is considering psychiatric counseling to cope with the extreme stress; she finds herself unable to handle on her own. Finally she turns to you, her rabbi, and asks you to help her decide what she should do. She wishes, specifically, to know the answers to these several questions.


Reader: 1. Does Judaism allow abortion under any circumstances?
Mesora: Not under all circumstances.


Reader: 2. If so, what are those circumstances?
Mesora: The child must be endangering the mother, and must still be totally inside the mother. If it is already exiting via childbirth, one cannot kill the child to save the mother, as its exit changes its status t an independently functioning human and renders it an equal life as the mother. No preference may be shown to one life over another.


Reader: 3. If they exist at all, do those circumstances apply to her?
Mesora: I do not see how she can abort. She should do her best to make ends meet and be convinced that God definitely assists those in need provided they are following the Torah. She should look forward to having another child who should be raised with the same love as her other children. God is now in the equation, as He has entered a soul into this infant. She would not want to be aborted had she been the infant. Thus, she should show the same desire for life for this infant.


Reader: 4. Do her obligations to her living children come before her obligations to an unborn child?
Mesora: That is not the issue. Her obligations are to one system, the Torah. And it rules that killing is not permissible.