It’s been two years since her abortion, but Lilah* is still grieving. After seeing an article about In Shifra’s Arms (ISA), her husband Benny emails me, desperate for help.
In Shifra’s Arms is the American-Jewish lifeline that nurtures women through unplanned pregnancy crises and helps them and their children to flourish. In cases of miscarriage or abortion, we always provide sensitive follow-up, and that’s what Lilah needed.
Lilah aborted early in her first trimester. Identifying as modern Orthodox, Benny emails that they have several children in day school and felt they could not bring another child into their family. It seems to me that they felt too ashamed to tell their family about the pregnancy or the abortion and so they are very isolated. He doesn’t mention if they consulted a Rav.
Now the abortion’s emotional fallout is wreaking havoc on their lives. Benny writes, “She feels tremendous depression over what we have done. She blames me for my encouragement, but I had no idea she would be in this kind of pain.” At the time, Benny felt like it was just an embryo and thought Lilah would be okay. Now, Lilah is grieving because she feels she’s lost something precious and resents feeling pressured into “murdering my baby.” Her unmitigated grief creates a deep divide between them.
This story is tragic. Even if Lilah’s grief is not universal, it is not unique.
If Lilah and Benny had had access to the emotional and tangible resources they needed, perhaps they would have felt they had another choice. Lilah’s world could have been different. And our world too.
When Daniella became pregnant, she had a nine-month-old baby. Her emotionally abusive marriage was crumbling. Her living situation was unstable and she didn’t have a job. Adoption was off the table because her soon-to-be ex-husband could refuse to sign the papers. Everything was falling apart. She had no idea how she would manage. The prospect of a new baby, tying her further to a bad marriage, was terrifying. She felt anxious, lost, trapped. When she asked her rabbi for an abortion heter, she got one.
Yet despite her fear and the heter, Daniella felt conflicted about aborting. She reached out to ISA. On the other end of our Helpline stood our professional counselors and small team, ready to do whatever we could to be of service.
“What would you need to continue your pregnancy, before and after birth?” we’ve asked hundreds of Jewish women in crisis. Most women like Daniella need emotional support that’s nurturing and strengthening as well as financial support for things like diapers and more.
“My [ISA] counselor was priceless,” Daniella says. “She gave me the strength to realize I had the strength to be able to do this. And so that’s why I ruled out the abortion.” The same ISA counselor who takes a woman’s first call will support her through the baby’s first birthday with free one-on-one support.
There are at least 10,000** Jewish abortions in the United States each year. There are even more women who may not abort but are still very vulnerable and struggling. While many have the stereotype that “unplanned pregnancy crises” mainly involve secular or “off-the-derech” teenagers, fully half of ISA’s clients are married and Orthodox. We are far more likely to hear from a 38-year-old whose IUD fell out than a teenager in trouble.
* Name changed to protect privacy.
Full story at The Jewish Press.