Written and submitted by Zelda Lily guest writer Rabbi Moshe Averick
Pregnancy is the – uniquely feminine - obstacle that often hinders a woman’s admittance into the world of wealth, fame, and success. President Barack Obama clearly enunciated this idea when he declared in 2008 that he would not want his daughters “punished” by requiring them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Obviously, he was referring to a situation in which pregnancy would interfere with the “normal” progression of education, career, and the accompanying processes of emotional maturity and personality development.
The feminist movement that began in the 60’s was largely a reaction to the societal barriers that prevented women’s professional advancement. The emptiness and frustration that women were experiencing at the time, as described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique, were depicted as resulting from a profound sense of disconnection both from their essential selves and from genuine opportunities for growth and personal accomplishment. A woman was regarded, and was accorded value, primarily as a bearer of children, as their devoted caretaker, and as a loyal appendage to her husband. The latter being engaged in matters of importance in “the world out there.” What sparked the feminist revolution was the perceived denial of women’s fundamental human need for, and right to, recognition in their own right; that is to say, the acknowledgment of their intrinsic value.
It seems quite reasonable that if – although perhaps a rather dubious “if” – true human fulfillment and self-esteem are achieved through wealth, fame, success, career advancement, and financial independence, then it would be terribly unjust to allow the “handicaps” of pregnancy and child bearing to interfere with the attainment of these goals. Ergo, one of the cardinal dogmas of the feminist philosophies that emerged from those turbulent times was that a woman must have unrestricted control over her reproductive function, including the right to “terminate” a pregnancy.
While the internal logic behind the formulation of this central dogma might be sound, there is obviously another crucial issue that must be clarified before any reasonable and morally sensitive person could give such an irrevocable act their stamp of approval: When does life begin?
When does life begin?
There is universal agreement that no man or woman is justified in murdering a living child when that child is perceived as interfering with one’s career or path to self-fulfillment. It would seem obvious then, that before a morally compelling argument could be be accepted for granting women the license to “terminate” a pregnancy at their own discretion, it must be preceded by an extended period of intense – and most likely agonizing – analysis and inquiry into the definition of human life. This is not a question to be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders or a wave of the hand; our topic is not the removal of a wart, a tummy tuck, or liposuction. To neglect this duty and the accompanying soul-searching is to be intellectually dishonest, morally anesthetized, or criminally negligent.