Speech by Rabbi Kasten at a rally at the Texas Capitol on reproductive rights

 

My name is Rabbi Nancy Kasten and I am the Chief Relationship Officer for Faith Commons, 

a multi-faith organization devoted to bringing the voices of people of faith into the public square for the common good. 

Thank you to Just Texas: Faith Voices for Justice 

for providing this opportunity to speak out against bills that put the lives and wellbeing of women and their families at risk.

In a Democracy, founded upon freedom of religion, 

and bound by our Constitution 

to Separation of Church and State, 

all of our faith traditions are best served 

by the miracles that scientific discovery has to offer. 

Most of us believe that modern science and medicine are gifts from a higher authority 

and should be utilized for healing, alongside faith and prayer. 

Jewish oral law asserts, 

True healing is the result of efficacious prayer. 

But not every person merits such an outcome through prayer alone. 

Human beings, therefore, have to rely on medicine, too, 

through the authority granted 

trained medical practitioners to administer treatment. 

Those practitioners in turn are religiously bound to perform their duty. 

If they withhold treatment they are regarded as one who sheds blood. 

Furthermore, one should not occupy themselves with medical treatment 

unless they are an expert and there is none other greater than they; 

for if so, that person is regarded as one who sheds blood.” 

(Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 336)

With this bill, Texas state government seeks to override best practices of doctors and clergy alike.   by criminalizing life-saving medical procedures, House Bill 1515 will endanger and sacrifice the lives of women, children, and health care providers. 

HB 1515 does not serve Texans of any faith. It does not serve the nascent lives it claims to protect. Instead, it punishes women for having sex, stripping them of their ability to protect their own lives and the lives of their children.

As clergy of different faith traditions and even within our own traditions, we may differ in our beliefs about when life begins. but we can agree that once life begins, it should be preserved and protected to the greatest extent possible.

yet Today in Texas women are dying from conditions either caused or exacerbated by pregnancy and childbearing. A disproportionate number of them are poor women and women of color. They are often women who already have children, children who are left without a mother to care for them.

Today in Texas a girl denied the information she needs can become pregnant and not know what is happening to her for weeks or months. 

Another girl or woman might suspect she is pregnant, but not have the cash on hand to purchase a pregnancy test. 

today in texas a woman who discovers she is pregnant could easily be one of the 20% of Texans who lack health insurance, so she won’t be able to get prenatal or post-partum care unless she can pay for it out of pocket.

We need to tell our State Senators and Representatives as well Governor abbott and Lieutenant Governor patrick that we are “Pro-Lives,” not just “Pro-life, ” 

and we expect them to be, too.

What does it mean to be “Pro-Lives”? 

It means protecting the ability of physicians to provide comprehensive reproductive health care to their patients instead of criminalizing live-saving medical treatment.

It means radically expanding access to tools that help boys and girls, women and men avoid unintended pregnancy, like comprehensive, medically accurate sex education and contraception.

It means expanding access to medical care, rather than closing clinics that serve poor people and people who live in rural areas, denying parents and children resources they depend on to stay healthy and well.

Elected officials who are “Pro-lives” rely on science to protect women and families 

rather than slogans to protect their longevity in office. 

pro-lives lawmakers are the people who deserve to serve us. 

If they do so with integrity and faith, they will merit their reelection.