Dozens of Jewish people gathered at the Indiana Statehouse Friday to protest against a bill that would largely ban abortion in the state.
The rally – organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, ADL Midwest and Women for Change – targeted SB 1 (ss), which bans abortions except in restricted cases of rape and incest and when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. The event followed larger protests held earlier in the week by the ACLU of Indiana, Planned Parenthood, and Indiana Right to Life.
Abortion is considered essential healthcare under Jewish law, and is required if the pregnant person’s life or health is at risk. Protesters and speakers Friday said the bill threatens Jewish religious freedom, and displayed signs reading “Abortion bans are against my religion” and “Abortion access is a Jewish value.”
Rebecca Geyer, a former president of the NCJW’s Indianapolis section, says most Jewish people believe life begins once a child is born and takes their first breath, not at conception. Until it is born, the fetus is considered to be a physical part of the pregnant person’s body and is not alive.
“Judaism is about giving people individual choice with regard to this issue. We really do prioritize a woman's health and our belief about when life begins is different than maybe other faiths,” Geyer said. “But we are not an organization or a religion that is going to impose our views upon others, we just feel it's important to have reproductive access for all.”
Jordana Chernow-Reader, a rabbi at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, spoke at Friday’s rally and emphasized that the well-being of the pregnant person’s life comes first, including both physical and mental health.
“We really firmly believe that it's her choice, that she is empowered to make whatever decision she wants to make over her own life and over her own body,” Chernow-Reader said.
Jamie Burnett attended Friday’s protest after hearing about it at her synagogue and from her mother, who was also in attendance.
“I'm pro-choice and just upset about the fact that at some point, my daughter might not be able to have the right to go get an abortion if she needs one, that it's going to disproportionately affect so many women of color,” Burnett said. “So I just feel like I need to use my voice.”
Burnett added that she thinks the proposed legislation disregards what most Hoosiers want, and is influenced by pro-life groups with Christian values.
“It’s such a disconnect, that it's basically imposing Christian values on Jewish people,” she said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Saturday, and more protests are expected to take place. If the Senate passes the bill, it will then move through the House.