Activism: Reproductive Rights
While halakhic discussions about abortion largely excluded the arguments and perspectives of women, in general poskim (decisors) determined that a woman’s life takes priority over the life of the fetus. Halakhic perspectives have explored the point at which the fetus is considered a human and taken the mother’s physical and psychological health into account in determining her right to abort.
Susan Brownmiller is a radical feminist writer and journalist. She was a leader in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s to 1980s (second-wave feminism). Brownmiller is bes-known for Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975), the first comprehensive study of sexual violence.
Born, raised, and educated in Toledo, Ohio, Erika Davis is an independent birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and yoga instructor.
A stubborn nonconformist from an early age, Käte Frankenthal was a physician and politician active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party. While running her own successful private practice, she was active in sex reform legislation and played a prominent role in the Federation of Women Physicians.
Emma Goldman was a potent voice of anarchism in North America and Europe in the early twentieth century, and her controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies. Yet even after enduring many contentious interactions with law enforcement, Goldman continued to speak, write, and teach on freedom and individual rights, inspiring her followers to question authority at every turn.
The child of a refugee from Nazi Germany, Jane Harman began her career in law. After being elected in 1992, she spent 20 years as a vocal advocate of Israel, pro-choice legislation, and women’s issues as a Representative for California’s 36th Congressional District. After leaving Congress for the private sector, Harman held leadership positions in several prominent political organizations.
American women have been the “perennial health care reformers.” Women’s health activism has often coincided with other social reform movements. Since the late 1960s, Jewish women have helped create and sustain the women’s health movement through decades of substantial social, political, medical, and technological change.
Esther Herlitz was a feminist trailblazer in Israeli politics and diplomacy. She was the first official female Israeli ambassador, among six female Labor Party members who served in the eighth and ninth Knessets, and the first woman to serve on the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense. She also helped formulate and ensure the passage of a liberal abortion law in 1977.