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Monitor Board of Contributors: Abortion, Holocaust are two very different things

Virginia Austin’s letter, “A greater holocaust” (Monitor, March 25) is problematic for several reasons.

First, while I applaud Austin’s recognition of the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, her assertion that “we Americans are guilty of a greater and ongoing holocaust,” because of the legal right a woman has to terminate her pregnancy, and asserting that the termination of a pregnancy uses “more painful means than gas chambers,” is offensive.

To even try to make the comparison – that the pain felt by living men, women and children, stripped of their dignity and rights, shivering naked and in fear, and then sent into gas chambers like cattle in order to be murdered en mass somehow pales in comparison to the pain felt by a fetus in an abortion – simply boggles the mind.

In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, written by physicians at Medical School at the University of California, San Francisco, the authors conclude, “Pain perception requires conscious recognition or awareness of a noxious stimulus. . . . Fetal awareness of noxious stimuli requires functional thalamocortical connections. Thalamocortical fibers begin appearing between 23 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, (and evidence) suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in pre-term neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.” In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy before viability. Viability usually occurs between weeks 24 and 28, before the onset of the capacity to recognize pain.

I cannot help but wonder if Austin used the term “holocaust” in order to gain the sympathy of the Jewish community for her point of view. In Judaism, we believe that life does not begin at conception – but rather, the potential for life does. At all times, the well-being of the mother takes precedent over the potential life

Judaism teaches that if a woman might sustain injury or damage – physical, psychological, and in some cases financial – by carrying the fetus to term, she may terminate her pregnancy. In some circumstances, the fetus is called a “rodef” in Hebrew, meaning a “chaser,” if it would cause serious injury or death to the mother. In that case, Jewish law requires that a woman terminate her pregnancy.

Finally, the word “holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” However objectionable Austin finds the termination of pregnancy, a “holocaust” it is not.

(Robin Nafshi is the rabbi at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord.)

THANK YOU THANK YOU RABBI ROBIN! Thanks for bringing some sanity and reason to the table. The Godwin's law-inspired letter which prompted your rebuttal was a bit over-the-top to say the least.

Abortion-complex topic and I will not weigh in with either a positive or negative opinion. I spent the day with a colleague at an abortion clinic once, in a different time and place. My first impression was that none of these women wanted to be there. This was not an inconsequential or callous act by any of the people I saw that day. For all it was a tough decision by women who desperately wished they had other options. My main point here is. the greatest majority of those women were in situations or cultures in which they could not just, “say no” to sex and were prohibited from using birth control. Many had more children at home than they could feed or care for already. In some situations and cultures, refusing sex can bring abandonment, psychological or physical threat or retaliation against the woman or worse, other children. I suspect it would be very difficult for many ladies to fully appreciate being in that situation. This was a significant consciousness raising event and forever changed how I view this issue. There were no uncaring women in that clinic that day - there were no winners. So before we would label people or a healthcare system as bad or a practice evil; I would encourage trying to appreciate the plight of women who do not have the same societal options, most American women have. Of one thing I am sure, the God I believe in would not give up on the souls of children no matter what their fate.

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