Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Arlen Specter, the senator who had his arm twisted recently by president Bush, is Jewish, which makes the president's bullying all the more repulsive.

You will recall, that Sen. Specter saved his seat as the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by signing a pledge - a pledge that had to be drafted, then redrafted to the specifications of the GOP leadership - in which he promised to help the president promote anti-abortion judges to the federal bench.

Unfortunately, (and here's the repulsive bit) Specter is a Jew and the Jewish view on abortion does not fit neatly into the president's pro-life position. Jewish law may not allow indiscriminate abortions on demand, but it does not ban abortion completely: In fact, one great Rabbi, the Tziz Eliezer, allows first trimester abortions under certain circumstances and second trimester abortions under others.

What would have been the result if Specter had stood his ground, arguing, "my religion allows the abortions you wish to prohibit so I must resist your pressure on religious grounds." Would the conservatives in the heartland have respected this moral stance? Or would they have challenged the Jewish God and the teachings of the Jewish Rabbi?

Unfortunately, that's idle speculation now. Specter, at the president's demand, has signed away his fundamental right to follow his religious conscious. Furthermore, if Bush has his way even the sort of abortions permitted by the Tziz Eliezer will become illegal. Though I certainly don't expect the newly emasculated Senator to worry about Jewish teachings on abortion, I do worry. And it's infuriating that my Jewish faith, and the teachings of my Jewish Rabbis may soon be co-opted, with the (forced) complicity of this Jewish senator.

I've argued elsewhere that Jews and Judaism are best protected when we have more freedom, not less freedom. This sorry case is proof again that I am right, and proof again that when Bush calls for the restoration of religion to a central position in public life he is calling for the restoration of nothing but his own religion.

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