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Jewesses with Attitude

In Shifra's Arms does not reflect a "Jewish divide" on abortion

A year ago, Washington Jewish Week reported on a new crisis pregnancy center (CPC) called In Shifra’s Arms. Unlike the vast majority of CPCs, which are typically funded and run by Christian organizations or churches, In Shifra’s Arms strives to serve women in the Jewish community.

I expressed my concerns about In Shifra’s Arms in a post last year. Crisis pregnancy centers target young women using the language of choice, and often deceptively present themselves as a comprehensive medical and psychological resource, when in reality they operate with a specifically anti-choice agenda. I was especially upset to learn that In Shifra’s Arms was advertising at University of Maryland and visiting Jewish day schools while also presenting false information about abortion on their website and in their literature.

In Shifra’s Arms is now in the news again, with a wire story picked up by Washington Post, Huffington Post, and others. Somewhat misleadingly titled “Crisis pregnancy group reflects Jewish divide on abortion(84% percent of American Jews support legalized abortion in all or most cases, according to the 2007 Pew Religious Landscape Survey, numbers that hardly reflect a deep divide), the article detailed the operation and evolution of the organization during its first year. Encouragingly, the organization’s website has taken down links to “resources” that falsely claim abortion causes breast cancer or suicide after receiving criticism from the blogosphere (that’s us!).

But In Shifra’s Arms still operates with an ideological message which ultimately hurts women. Erica Perlman, the founder of the organization, clearly wants to do good within her community and help other women. But she admits to an anti-abortion agenda and hopes that her work will result in more Jewish babies brought into the world.

Once again, this is where I find In Shifra’s Arms to be built on a problematic set of principles. When women face an unplanned pregnancy, they need to be empowered with accurate information about all their options – parenting, adoption, and abortion. It is condescending and paternalistic to assume that abortion is never the right choice for an individual woman.

While it is wonderful that Perlman has taken down the false claims about abortion, she is still not providing women with the opportunity to have an honest, supportive conversation about their pregnancies. She has a ideological, anti-abortion agenda. Jewish law around abortion is remarkable because it places significant value on a woman’s life and health. The crisis pregnancy center model, built on an extremely conservative concept of Christianity, does not reflect these Jewish values. If In Shifra’s Arms really wants to help Jewish women, it needs to truly listen to their needs, provide comprehensive and honest education, and trust that they know what is best for them and their families.

How to cite this page

Kadar, Emily. "In Shifra's Arms does not reflect a "Jewish divide" on abortion." 6 July 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/in-shifras-arms>.

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