68 Faith Leaders In Iowa Wrote A Letter Defending Women's Right To Choose

"We stand with Iowa women."

On Thursday, 68 faith leaders from Iowa signed a letter supporting women's right to choose. The controversial letter includes signatures from reverends, pastors, bishops, rabbis and executive directors of interfaith organizations. In their letter, the faith leaders responded to a push from Iowa legislators who are trying to pass a ban on abortions after six weeks. 

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"It is not the role of the government to infringe upon a woman's right to make private medical decisions," the letter, published in the Des Moines Register, said. "Most Iowans, people of faith and no faith, believe in and are standing with every woman's right to be in control of their bodies and the healthcare decisions that impact their lives. We stand with Iowa women, too."

Iowa already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, banning any abortion after 20 weeks of a pregnancy. But now, Republicans in the state legislature are debating whether to shorten that to six weeks. And many of them appear to be on board.

"I think it will do a great deal to promote a culture of life in this state," Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican on the subcommittee that considering the measure, told the Des Moines Register.  

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is a New York-based Rabbinical scholar who has studied in yeshivas all over the world, at Columbia University and Yale, among others, and has three ultra-orthodox rabbinic ordinations. He shed light on the abortion question and the letter from Iowa, which he was not a part of signing, in a phone call with A Plus. Moskowitz, who describes himself as "pro-choice," said his feelings are actually motivated by scripture. 

"I'm pro-choice for a lot of reasons, but the one that might be most relevant is that there are places where Jewish law mandates getting an abortion," Moskowitz said. "If it's a risk to the mother's life, sometimes if there are multiple fetuses and one is threatening the life of the other. So, from the Jewish law perspective, we want the ability to be able to get an abortion when necessary. For that reason alone it's important to support legislation around abortion rights. 

Moskowitz said that where you draw the line there is up to individuals, and people from different religious backgrounds are going to draw different lines. But he was clear that, according to Jewish law, abortions are not only "allowed," they are — in some instances — mandatory. 

Supporters of the bill, now being discussed in the House, often invoke the "heartbeat rule," which says that if a heartbeat can be detected then the fetus should not be allowed to be aborted. But the 68 signatories on the letter from religious leaders objected to this idea, saying that "another person's theological understanding of when life begins cannot trump the rights of women."

"We know that women do not want to be in the place to need an abortion," the letter said. "Life is not perfect and there are personal, often difficult, reasons that lead women to make a decision to end a pregnancy. The reasons are as varied as the women themselves. Unless we are invited into that conversation with a woman, it is not our business and it is not the business of the government." 

Cover photo: Shutterstock / abd

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