Jewish law does not sanction abortion on demand without a pressing reason. Daniel Eisenberg is with the Department of Radiology at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA and an Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Imaging at Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine.
He has taught a Jewish medical ethics class for the past 15 years. Eisenberg writes extensively on topics of Judaism and medicine and lectures internationally on topics in Jewish medical ethics to groups of all backgrounds.
In most circumstances, the fetus is treated like any other "person." Generally, one may not deliberately harm a fetus.
The rabbinic experts also discuss the permissibility of abortion for mothers with German measles and babies with prenatal confirmed Down syndrome.There is a difference of opinion regarding abortion for adultery or in other cases of impregnation from a relationship with someone Biblically forbidden.The same analysis used in other cases of emotional harm might be applied here.Cases of adultery interject additional considerations into the debate, with rulings ranging from prohibition to it being a mitzvah to abort.As abortion resurfaces as a political issue in the upcoming U. presidential election, it is worthwhile to investigate the Jewish approach to the issue.
The traditional Jewish view of abortion does not fit conveniently into any of the major "camps" in the current American abortion debate.
Judaism recognizes psychiatric as well as physical factors in evaluating the potential threat that the fetus poses to the mother.
However, the danger posed by the fetus (whether physical or emotional) must be both probable and substantial to justify abortion.
Nevertheless, it is universally agreed that the fetus will become a full-fledged human being and there must be a very compelling reason to allow for abortion.
As a general rule, abortion in Judaism is permitted only if there is a direct threat to the life of the mother by carrying the fetus to term or through the act of childbirth.
While most poskim forbid abortion for "defective" fetuses, Rabbi Eliezar Yehuda Waldenberg is a notable exception.