Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of sixteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has written four studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) and Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews.Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
Abortion as an issue seems to be more important to most American liberal Jewish women than all other issues combined: More important than the failing economy, a failed foreign policy vis a vis the Islamic world—and definitely more important than Israel.
Yesterday, I was interviewed at length by a reporter for a Jewish American newspaper about American Jewish women, abortion, and the upcoming election.
“Sir,” I began, “Is there no other issue of importance to American Jewish women?”
He paused. He said he was willing to hear my views in general. (But throughout the interview he kept returning to this single issue).
I told him: I do not believe that American women will ever lose the right to abortion—but, if our economy fails, we will lose our ability to keep fighting our opponents who have been chipping away at abortion rights since the day it became legal.
“Where will the funding for the lawyers, lobbyists, and professional feminists come from to wage this battle”? I asked.
The reporter asked: You are a feminist, yes? That means you have to vote for abortion, yes?”
Indeed, I am a Second Wave feminist leader. I am a co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network. I fought for American women’s educational, economic, and reproductive freedom in the late 1960s and especially for their freedom from violence. I know that abortion is halakhically acceptable under certain conditions, where rape or danger to the health of the mother or child are involved.
However, unlike many feminists of my generation, I also worked on the issue of family, motherhood and child care because I believe that the right to become a mother is an equally important right; this is what “choice” is about: To be or not to be….a mother.
Then I said:
Let’s assume we vote for Abortion Uber Alles but find ourselves bombed back to the seventh century. There would still be American abortion rights on paper, but in actuality, our precious country might have just undergone a nuclear or chemical attack.
The reporter persisted.
“But how can you vote for a Party that condemns abortion?”
Oh kind Sir: I do not want the Taliban or the Islamists in my bed. I do not want them to be marrying girls off at twelve or face veiling us at eight. As a feminist, I am concerned that our government seems to be aiding and abetting—or at least making common cause—with barbarian, misogynist regimes that will never, ever allow a woman to have an abortion for any reason and will kill her on the spot if she tries to do so.
“But have you heard what Romney and Ryan say about abortion and about health care? As a Jew and as a woman, how can you vote for them?”
“I have not suggested that we vote for one man or the other. You represent a liberal newspaper and I am not suicidal. In any event, I am talking about the issues. Can we please focus on the issues?”
The reporter claimed that he was actually smiling when I said this, but that he still had to ask me the same questions he asked everyone else.
Then, I asked him a question. How can you, as a Jew and an American not be worried about Israel?
I am worried—so worried, as a Jewish-American about the rapid rise of anti-Semitism in the world; the scapegoating of Israel-only and Israel-first—when Israel is, in fact, the victim, not the aggressor; when tiny Israel is the symbol of America and is bearing the brunt of all the Islamist hatred of infidel America.
Most important, Israel is America’s only stable, democratic, and militarily-ready ally in the Middle East.
As Americans, how can we trust the fiery, bomb-and rocket-throwing Arab and Muslim-majority countries? Islamist groups have infiltrated every ongoing civil, tribal, and religious war from Gaza to Kabul, and right into the Far East.
The Iranians and their fellow Islamists, are vowing to literally wipe Israel off the map and to establish a Caliphate first in Europe, then in North America.
He was quiet. Perhaps he did not hear me. He probably took us back to the abortion question. But I continued.
The Muslim-on-Muslim violence is horrendous. As a Jew, I care about this. We have potential allies in Muslim countries—dissidents, democrats, feminists—to whom we have not connected, whom we have betrayed. I cannot stand by while others are so savagely persecuted in religious wars just to keep abortion legal.
Anyway, as I’ve explained, we can’t even do that if the economy fails or if we are the victim of other 9/11 attacks.
Abortion is an important issue for liberal women, but it is not the only issue and this single issue should not determine how Jewish women vote in the upcoming election.
This piece is dedicated to Prime Minister Netanyahu who would be treated like royalty were he to visit my home. America is my home. I am offended by President Obama’s refusal to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu—even as he prepares to welcome the Muslim Brotherhood’s President, Mohammed Morsi, of Egypt.