Besieged: Choice, SCOTUS, and Jerusalem

Recently I have been reading about the Supreme Courts decision to let the Texas law SB8 stand and their pending decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case in Mississippi. On the second the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote, “For many, the barriers will simply be too high, and they will be forced to endure the substantial risks of continued pregnancy and childbirth.” The implications for women’s health are scary to me. I stand by any religion’s claim that this it is wrong to end a potential life. The Torah takes life and potential life very seriously, even if not the same as each other. And because this is a religious matter I do not believe that the state has a role here. This issue is only compounded by class and access to resources. Only wealthier people have the funds to get out of Texas or Mississippi to terminate those unwanted pregnancies. This newest push to limit women’s access to health care seems like an assault of women’s agency and choice over their own bodies.

It is painful to see laws, mostly written by men, about women’s bodies, lack empathy or understanding of the personal, religious, or public health issues of women. How is a women who believes it is her religious right to make decisions about her own body supposed to interpret this moment? Why is the state in the business of making rules for other people’s bodies? It might seem as the though the womb is being besieged. Don't Tread On Me Uterus Graphic T-shirt : Clothing, Shoes &  Jewelry

Regarding the Supreme Courts most recent decision to let the Texas law stand Marc Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights is quoted to have said:

While SB8 is about abortion, this private enforcement scheme implicates every other constitutional right, If a state can prohibit the exercise of any constitutional right that’s disfavored in that state and get around federal court review by allowing private citizens to sue someone for exercising that constitutional right, then it’s hard to say where this scheme ends. Today’s decision is a marker that says every constitutional right is now at risk.

Texas Tribune 12/10/21

Be it that you agree with Roe v. Wade or not, pushing against this long standing precedent opens a Pandora’s box. This has the potential of allowing the states the discretion to see different people differently under the law. Will we strive to treat everyone fairly, equitably, or justly?

I was thinking about all of this today as Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorates when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period.

As we know from sources such as Eicha (the Book of Lamentations), this siege was brutal, depriving the residents of Jerusalem of basic necessities and forcing them into horrific situations. Asara B’Tevet is significant because it marks the onset of a period of tremendous suffering for the Jewish people.  Jerusalem was the center of our people. In diaspora our yearning for Jerusalem became a bedrock of Jewish identity. I was not just a direction to pray it became our national orientation. It came to represent our national agency and autonomy.

siege of jerusalem | The Deadliest Blogger: Military History Page

Today on Asara B’Tevet and seeing where the court is headed it is hard not feeling besieged. Is this the beginning of the end?

As the story goes, in 1787 as the delegates to the Constitutional Convention are just leaving Independence Hall, a crowd had gathered on the steps there in Philadelphia. They had just decided on the general structure for the new United States. The crowd was eager to hear the news. An anxious women, wearing a shawl, approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him, “well, Doctor, what do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied sagely, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

It is moments like this, when we feel besieged, that we have to ask, will we keep it?


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