Louisvillians join NCJW abortion justice rally in Washington

By Lee Chottiner
Managing Editor

Nancy Chazen (left) and Beth Salamon on the National Mall during the May 17 Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice. (photo provided by Beth Salamon)

With Roe v. Wade hanging by a thread, the National Council of Jewish Women ginned up support for the landmark Supreme Court abortion ruling by organizing a May 17 rally on the National Mall in Washington.
Some 1,500 people – mostly Jews, but people from all backgrounds – including Beth Salamon and Nancy Chazen of the Louisville Section, turned out, demonstrating support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
“Energetic, great signs,” said Salamon, the state policy advocacy chair in Kentucky, describing the atmosphere at the rally. “Mostly women, but there were men there, too, which was nice to see. It’s time for men to realize that this impacts them as well. It’s not just a women’s issue.”
The Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice, as the rally was called, had been envisioned as the closing ceremony for NCJW’s annual Washington Institute conference. Only a few hundred people were expected to attend.
However, plans changed earlier this month when Politico leaked a draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Instead of a few hundred, NCJW blanketed the Mall with demonstrators in one of the largest outdoor Jewish events in Washington since the 1984 rally for Soviet Jewry.
Among the speakers were U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler, Andy Levin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Judy Chu and Pramila Jayapal; Sen. Richard Blumenthal; Rabbis Hara Person, chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Dov Linzer, Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
Participants came from across the country – and even Israel – who used the rally as an outlet to express their outrage and to find intersectional solidarity in their Jewish community.
“Every denomination was represented, from Orthodox to Reform,” Salamon said, “reaffirming that Judaism believes in the sanctity of life, but also believes that a woman’s life is paramount to that of the fetus, and care of the woman is respected.”
The rally comes as many states, including Kentucky, are passing laws that strictly limit access to abortions or effectively ban them.
The Kentucky General Assembly, this past session, passed a law over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto that bans abortions after 15 weeks and imposes new requirements for women to obtain abortion pills. Abortion clinics say they cannot operate under the new restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings has blocked the law, but it could still take effect, depending on how the Supreme Court rules on a Mississippi law that also bans the procedure after 15 weeks. Many court observers believe the 6-3 conservative majority will use that case to strike down Roe, leaving the abortion question in the hands of the states.
The NCJW is preparing for that scenario, establishing in partnership with the National Abortion Federation (NAF), a fund to help women living in states hostile to abortions access services elsewhere.
The Jewish Fund for Abortion Access, which was set up in May 17 – the same day as the rally. The NAF will use the money to support a hotline to provide information on accessing abortions, assign case managers to women and fund travel over state lines for those who need it.
For now, though, Chazen, director of the Louisville Section, said women must stay engaged and informed.
“We don’t stay quiet,” she said. “We use our voices. We know who we are voting for, keeping our voices heard and keeping the voices part of the continuing discussion.”

(The Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.)

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