Sisterhood Blog

Jerrold Nadler: Standing Up to Stupak

By Sarah Seltzer

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Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses with Attitude has a great rundown of how devastating this weekend was for pro-choice Americans who watched the anti-abortion Stupak amendment pass and get tacked onto the House’s healthcare reform bill.

On Saturday, one of two men who stood up along with a group of Democratic female lawmakers to argue against the amendment was Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents much of Manhattan and a chunk of Brooklyn and is one of the most prominent liberal and Jewish members of Congress. Nadler didn’t just complain that the amendment was a distraction: He spoke up strongly and clearly about the effect of the bill on women. “This amendment adds a new discriminatory measure against women,” he said, explaining that the amendment takes current policy even further into the anti-abortion realm.

“It should not be used as a political football,” he added.

I’m proud that a Jewish legislator from my hometown would be so unabashedly pro-woman, but appalled that he alone made up half the male legislators who felt it worth his while to express outrage at the amendment. The other man to speak out against the amendment was Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley. Clearly, we need more strident allies in Congress.

Watch Nadler here:

So why are pro-choicers so angry? Well, the events of Saturday night were a depressing continuation of the chipping away at reproductive rights we’ve seen occurring for decades now in America. While Roe remains law technically, the access for women from less privileged economic and more remote geographic backgrounds has been steadily shrinking. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told writer Emily Bazelon last year:

There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. … So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

And the trend continues. As Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress notes at RH Reality Check (Full disclosure: I write regularly for RHRC), this amendment does not just maintain status quo restrictions on “federally-funded” abortions, but rather “potentially goes farther than any other federal law to restrict women’s access to abortion.” Not only will lower-income women continue to be prevented from obtaining policies that cover abortion, but any woman who either receives a subsidy to buy a policy or wishes to buy into the public option will be excluded from receiving abortion coverage. This could affect a larger group, including a huge number of freelancers, part-timers and self-employed women who don’t have access to employer-based health care. Furthermore, it may discourage insurance companies from providing abortion coverage, as they want to compete for those subsidized-purchasers.

We’ll see if organizations and legislators in favor of abortion rights, such as Nadler and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, can successfully strip Stupak’s language from the final bill that lands on President Obama’s desk.


esthermiriam Tue. Nov 10, 2009

Jerry was great, but, in fairness, note correction in NYTimes blog cited in 2nd para above --

"Correction here: Two male lawmakers, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, and Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, joined the women speaking out in opposition to the amendment."

Sarah Seltzer Tue. Nov 10, 2009

Duly noted. Will correct ASAP.

Leah Wed. Nov 11, 2009

Thanks for the shout out Sarah. My fellow Jewesses with Attitude blogger, Judith, shared this article with me this morning, and it got us both pretty fired up:

I just keep getting angrier and angrier. Revolution, anyone?

esthermiram Wed. Nov 11, 2009

From JTA -- November 10 ■ The American Jewish Congress joins the RAC and the NCJW in urging the rejection of the House-passed restriction on abortion in the health-care bill.

Bill Pearlman Fri. Nov 13, 2009

I can't help but love the irony here. Most non orthodox Jewish women are virulent in their pro-choice position. It dominates their views over and above a lot of things. Including the security of Israel. Yet, they were sold out by guess who, Obama, Pelosi, and the Democrats. Like I said, you have to love the irony.

Yehuda Laib Sat. Nov 14, 2009

Nadler beter watch out. A couple of years ago I watched him eating a huge meail, including an enormous plate of french fries at a fast food place at Union Station. He better make sure the health care bill covers angioplasty, statins and cardiac rehabilitation. He shouldn't be worrying about abortion.

Rina Copper Sun. Nov 15, 2009

Thank you, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, for standing up for women's rights and representing so well the Jewish tradition of upholding human and civil rights. Perhaps your opponents should think more about the need in children for whole-hearted parenting.

What a fool you are, Yehuda Laib. First, not that it's anyone's business, but from the look of this video, it seems Rep. Nadler has lost weight. Whether he has or not is not public business, but you show the worst kind of chutzpah to cast disdain on an intelligent reflective man who thinks about the welfare of others, more than you do. Second, more important, abortion rights are far more serious than one person's eating habits. Since you don't appreciate the child's need to be wanted, you might look into your own soul and ponder why.

Bill Pearlman Sun. Nov 15, 2009

Rina: The Democrats sold women like you out. In order to curry favor with illegal immigrants and the public employees unions. How do you feel about that?

Stephen Franken Sun. Nov 15, 2009

I must say that I am stunned to read Rina Cooper's comments conflating abortion with the "Jewish tradition of upholding human and civil rights." Yes, what about the most basic human rights of the unborn, like the right to life? How is it that so many reformed Jews cannot see that they are on the wrong side of this argument? Jews were treated as less than human by the Nazis, yet Rita treats unborn life as completely and totally without rights. There is no one more defenseless, and more deserving of some basic rights, than the unborn. It's amazing that Nadler wants to spend tax dollars on abortions, which is all that the Stupack amendment apposes.

esthermiriam Sun. Nov 15, 2009

So, here were women having a discussion of their interests/needs on the Sisterhood Blog -- then in come these guys, hootin' & hollerin' and telling the women how wrong they are. How helpful!

Sephardiman Mon. Nov 16, 2009

As a pro-life Jewish-American, I am saddened by Rep. Nadler's disdain for the well being of the preborn in this country. The pro-abortion stand taken by many in the American Jewish community, is an open Chilul Hashem and a mockery of traditional Torah values.

mark gross Mon. Nov 16, 2009

"preborn" and "unborn" is Christian language, pure and simple. According to the Bible (EX. 21), Talmud and halacha, a fetus is property until it attains viability.

Sephardiman: what arrogance! IT is YOUR goyishe position which constitutes the Chillul HaShem and mocks Torah values.

Tell me, Mr. Franken and Sephardiman: do you believe children should receive presents on Hanukkah? If so, how many preborn/unborn children have you bought gifts for? If the answer is none, then you are hypocrites!

Btw, Mr. Franken: Hitler being a good Catholic, the Nazis were very much pro-life: at least when it came to Christians/Aryans.

Stephen Franken Mon. Nov 16, 2009

Mr Gross, your comments are overly emotional and illogical.

First, your classification of "preborn" and "unborn" as Christian language makes it seem like reach your positions based upon what is opposite of Christians rather than based on logic and morality. If so then that is a sad commentary on your thinking.

As for your position that a fetus is property until it attains viability, I assume you are trying to make the point that it can thus be aborted at any time, because it is just "property"? So an 8-month fetus can be aborted? Seven months? Where exactly do you choose to draw the line?

You have not fully thought this issue through and your comments reflect it.

Rina Copper Mon. Nov 16, 2009

Bill Pearlman, Immigrants of all kinds deserve our respect, as our grandparents were immigrants, and because the vast majority of "illegal" immigrants come here under duress to work and help their families, and, in fact, make contributions to our society, more than many others. In addition, all working people deserve more respect than you suggest. So that's how I feel "about that."

Rina Copper Mon. Nov 16, 2009

P.S. Your ignorance shows in your reference to "Hussein Obama." How fortunate we are to have a president who is intelligent and reflective, far more than you.

Bill Pearlman Tue. Nov 17, 2009

Is that not his name. Look, when you went for Obama you put abortion rights above the security of Israel. But they sold you out anyway. There is no way you can deny that.

Sephardiman Tue. Nov 17, 2009

@Mr. Gross- I'm curious how you reach your conclusions. It is not arrogant to defend the lives of the unborn and to say yes to life. It is Torah.

As for Channuka presents, I am not happy with this sorry cultural artifact of misinformed and ignorant American Jews, like yourself.

mark gross Tue. Nov 17, 2009

Franken & Sephardiman: obviously, I have touched a nerve, and have presented an argument which neither of you can refute.

Once again: The normative Jewish religious position on any subject is the halacha, and the halacha is very clear. With regard to the rabbinic understanding of human life or personhood: The Mishnah assumes that a fetus is not viable unless it is born full-term, and even then, the newborn’s life is tenuous for the first thirty days of life. Destroying a fetus is therefore not considered murder.

In Judaism, we pasken from the text: you two, as they say, pasken from your pipek, i.e., arrogantly presume that your own subjective view equals the Jewish/Torah view. For shame!

mark gross Tue. Nov 17, 2009

Messrs Sephardiman & Franken:

I almost forgot:

1. Mr. Franken: an epithet is not an argument! To wit,

when you claim that: "Mr Gross, your comments are overly emotional and illogical.

First, your classification of "preborn" and "unborn" as Christian language makes it seem like reach your positions based upon what is opposite of Christians rather than based on logic and morality. If so then that is a sad commentary on your thinking.

You have not fully thought this issue through and your comments reflect it. "

Show me a canonical JEWISH text which supports your position. You can't, so you resort to overweening rhetoric.

2. Sephardiman; in this instance, your notion of "Torah" apparently coincides with that of Messianic Judaism. Are you a Jew for Jesus?

3. Are you, Mr. Franken? You both think like one on this subject!

Sephardiman Wed. Nov 18, 2009

Mr. Gross you wouldn't know a Torah concept if it hit you on the head. The fact that you can endorse the pro-choice position as authentically Judaism, says much about you, nothing good. I do not know Mr. Franken. I would like to, just as I would like to know anyone who is committed to overturning Roe vrs Wade in this country. Nearly 40 years of this court sanctioned slaughter is enough. It's time to give the preborn the same rights to life and liberty the rest of us enjoy.

Rina Copper Wed. Nov 18, 2009

Bill Pearlman, You will see that Obama is more a friend to Israel than any U.S. president has ever been. You will see.

Mark gross Fri. Nov 20, 2009


I have forgotten more Torah and Yiddishkeit than you will ever know.

Where is your source, a canonical rabbinic statement, to back your position? You have none. You are entitled to your view, but NOT to pass it off as the Jewish position- especially since, in this case, it goes completely against it!

That being the case, perhaps you should change your blog name to "goyishe kopf" .

steve ariza Sat. Nov 21, 2009

Note: 1. Sephardiman could not cite a canonical rabbinical text for his position. (probably because neither the Pope nor Pat Robertson qualify as rabbinic authorities!)

2. Also, he made no attempt to deny the charge that he was a Jew for Jesus.

Cecily Routman Thu. Dec 3, 2009

Mr Nadler, It is a shame that an intellectually gifted and progressive man such as you chooses to step into the darkness of pre-scientific discovery to find a rabbinical opinion to bolster a pro-abortion argument. The rabbi you quoted hadn’t access to advanced ultrasound technology or the latest genetic and biomolecular proof that life begins at conception. Mr. Nadler, I suggest that you depart from the tiresome, disingenuous religious alibis. Instead, step out of the darkness and observe an ultrasound guided abortion procedure. Observe a tiny human being, full of vigor and life, attempting to save itself by trying to avoid the surgical instruments intent on tearing it apart. I pray the experience will illuminate your mind and open your Jewish heart to the tragedy of abortion and all of its devastating consequences.

Sephardiman Thu. Dec 3, 2009

@Mr Gross & Mr Arzia:

1) No I am not a member of any messianic Jewish fellowship nor do I subscribe to their philosophy. For the record I am a member of the Ohel Shalom Torah Center in Chicago, my son attends Hillel Torah Day School in suburban Skokie, and I've taught in a number of congregational religious schools across Chicagoland for two decades now.

2)@Mr Gross- You are correct that you have forgotten Torah. Some of us still live by it however.

3) At both of you: “It is clear that abortion is not permitted without reason. That would be destructive and frustrative of of the possibility of life. But for a reason, even it is a slim reason (ta’am kalush), such as to prevent the pregnant woman’s nivul [disgrace, as in the case of the pregnant woman who is to be executed], then we have precedent and authority to permit it.” – Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel, Responsa Mishp’tei Uziel, Vol. III Hoshen Mishpat, No. 46.

That coming from my religious hero would seem to invalidate Roe vrs Wade and Rep. Nadler's legislative behavior.

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