This letter was written by 14 Jewish leaders in Kentucky who oppose Amendment 2. Get prepared to vote! Visit our Voter Information Center to view a sample ballot and find out how to vote by mail, vote early, or vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8.
Amendment 2 – a complete ban on abortion without exceptions – would steal Kentuckians' bodily autonomy and trample over their religious liberty.
As Jewish Rabbis and Cantors in Kentucky, we write to express our opposition to Constitutional Amendment 2 which will appear on Kentuckians’ ballots this coming week. We also offer our full support to the three Jewish women who have courageously demanded that their rights as women and as Jews not be infringed by our commonwealth’s government.
We are extremely concerned that, if passed, Amendment 2 will negatively impact religious freedom in our commonwealth. There is a broad range of contemporary Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish rabbis who have ruled that when a pregnancy threatens the wellbeing of the mother it is not only permissible but required by Jewish law to terminate the pregnancy. This is especially true in cases of dangerous ectopic pregnancies and other instances where the fetus is not viable. Rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum have also ruled that the mental and emotional wellbeing of the mother can and should be considered in addition to any immediate physical harm that could result in continuation of the pregnancy or birthing process.
These rulings are consistent with Jewish tradition and law as passed down in the Torah, the Talmud, and through millennia of commentary which teach that the life and wellbeing of a pregnant person is paramount. We believe this stance to be both pro-life and pro-choice.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson has enabled states and commonwealths such as our own to embrace a view of when life begins based on the beliefs of one specific religion to the exclusion of others. We believe this to be in direct conflict with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which prevents the government from establishing a state religion and prohibits it from favoring the view of one faith over another.
We also agree with the Jewish women who have argued in their case filed in state court that the commonwealth’s limits to reproductive healthcare access contradict The Kentucky Freedom of Religion Act which states that “Government shall not substantially burden a person's freedom of religion.” The act specifies that “burdens” can include “indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”
Let us be clear, Jewish women in our commonwealth are currently being denied access to the life-affirming care they need to safely become pregnant and give birth to healthy children. Denying life-saving procedures to pregnant people will lead to more death, not more life.
Sadly, we fear becoming pregnant in the Commonwealth of Kentucky has already become more dangerous since the trigger laws were allowed to take effect. Kentucky already leads the nation in maternal mortality rate, and the harm to pregnant people will only increase if Amendment 2 passes this election season.
We are also concerned about what Amendment 2 and Kentucky’s trigger laws will mean for people who struggle with infertility and want to utilize IVF as a means to grow their families. This process requires the fertilization of eggs in a laboratory, a process that, if Amendment 2 passes, could easily be outlawed by those who believe that life begins at the moment of conception. By contrast, we are inspired by the recent expansion of reproductive healthcare access in the State of Israel, where all citizens have been empowered to make their own decisions in these matters.
We pray that the vision of the book of Leviticus will soon come to pass when G-d promises, “I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down, and no one will terrify you.” We yearn for a day when no one is terrified by being denied a medical procedure based on the religious beliefs of other United States citizens.
In our synagogues and temples we pray every week for the wellbeing of our country and all Americans. In some of our communities we recite a prayer that asks God to pour out blessings upon this land, upon its inhabitants, upon its leaders, its judges, officers, and officials, who faithfully devote themselves to the needs of the public. We ask now that the judges, officers, officials, and inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Kentucky recognize Jews as equal citizens under the law and recognize that the restrictions on reproductive healthcare clearly violate our sincerely held religious beliefs.
We urge our fellow citizens to vote No on Amendment 2 in this November’s election and we pray that the courts will grant justice to our brave Jewish citizens who have spoken up to remind our commonwealth’s leaders that the concept of religious freedom does not end at the door to the synagogue or the doctor’s office.
Rabbi Ben Freed
Cantor David Lipp
Rabbi David Ariel-Joel
Rabbi Joshua Corber
Rabbi Shani Abramowitz
Rabbi David Wirtschafter
Cantor Lauren Adesnik
Rabbi Stan Miles
Cantor Sharon Hordes
Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport
Rabbi Gaylia R. Rooks
Rabbi Laura Metzger
Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner
Rabbi Robert Slosber