Dara (darabelle) wrote in jews_for_life,

I am taking a class with my rabbi that focuses on the ten commandments and applies them to real life situations. There are 20 students in the class. This week we did the 6th commandment--"You shall not murder"--so part of the lesson was about abortion. I thought I'd share some of these readings we did with all of you:

"If a woman's life is in danger due to her labor, one dismembers the detus within her, removing it limb by limb, for her life takes precedence over its life. But once the baby's greater part (head) has emerged it may not be harmed, for we do not set aside one life for another." -Mishnah Tractate Ohalot 7:6

"Because a fetus is not a "nefesh" (a full living soul). -Rashi, Tractate Sanhedrin 73b

"This too is a negative commandment: not to have compassion on the life of a pursuer (rodef). Therefore, the Sages ruled that when a woman has difficulty in labor, one may dismember the embryo within her, either with drugs or surgery, because the fetus is like a pursuer seeking to kill her. But once the head has emerged, the baby may not be harmed, for we do not set aside one life for another. This is the natural course of the world." -Maimonides, Hilchot Rotze'ach 1:9

The thing that bothers me about Maimonides' explanation is that in other situations a rodef seems to be a person (or animal, I suppose) who is after another person, trying to kill them, and in that situation you must kill the pursuer. However, in the abortion case, the fetus isn't intentionally seeking to kill the mother, as Maimonides says it is. I just cannot see the fetus as a "pursuer."

Our class has discussions on these things, and I was kind of nervous for this class because there is a girl in it who is very outspoken about her pro-choice views. She's on the board of the Voices for Choice club here at school and she was even wearing a pro-choice shirt the night of this class, which she showed off to everyone. I thought for sure it was going to get ugly, but luckily it wasn't that bad. The only thing was that she raised her hand and asked if we could use the term "abort" instead of "kill" when referring to the fetus. Sounds like she has some pro-choice guilt there.

Anyway, what are all of your thoughts?

x-posted to feminists4life and prolife
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