Overview & Objectives:
Moving Traditions emboldens Jewish youth to thrive through the pursuit of personal wellbeing (shleimut), caring relationships (hesed), and a Jewish and feminist vision of equity and justice (tzedek). Through supporting teens in all of these ways, we help them thrive. This session examines the issue of Reproductive Justice, specifically access to abortion, and how it impacts teens from each of these standpoints. Through this session, teens will:
- Discuss the meaning of reproductive justice and its impact on people of all genders and with diverse backgrounds and identities.
- Examine abortion rights and access through the reproductive justice lens.
- Build empathy for individual stories and experiences (including their own).
- Be empowered to stand in their Judaism, applying Jewish wisdom and values to the idea of reproductive justice, and disrupt the idea that there is only one religious approach to the issue.
- Make a copy of this padlet: https://padlet.com/Traditions2020/ujs4zvsxo0v7yhz5
- Create a blank Jamboard and have it open ready to use (for a quick tutorial on how to make a Jamboard, watch this video). In place of a Jamboard, you can also create a blank padlet for participants to post to or use any other tool you prefer that allows participants to add their ideas to a shared document.
- Have the following ready to share:
- Abortion Stigma Handout
- The History of Reproductive Justice – YouTube
- The Torah of Reproductive Justice (Source Sheet by NCJW) OR Abortion and Judaism | My Jewish Learning (choose the one that you feel would be best for your particular group of teens)
- ACLU—Keep Marching: What You Can Do To Protect Reproductive Freedom
- Passing the Women’s Health Protection Act
- Be prepared to put participants into breakout rooms of three.
Opening Activity (10 minutes)
Many Jewish organizations across the country, including Moving Traditions, partner together with NCJW to observe Repro Shabbat to celebrate the critical importance of reproductive health access, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice, and to learn more about Judaism’s approach to these issues. While reproductive health is about much more than abortion, today we are going to explore the issue of abortion as it relates to reproductive health, rights, and justice. January 22, 2022 marked the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. Just a few months later, on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is no constitutional right to an abortion and effectively reversed Roe v. Wade.
Facilitator’s Tip: conversations about abortions have traditionally been about women’s reproductive rights and health. However, people of all genders have abortions, and when we talk about abortion as only a women’s issue, we leave out transgender men, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, among others. These are people who are directly impacted by reproductive rights and health, and leaving them out of the discussion further marginalizes people who are vulnerable to the impacts of this issue. Be aware of your participants’ and your own use of language in this session and take the opportunity to practice using inclusive language together. For more on this, see this fact sheet from the National LGBTQ Task Force.
It is also important to acknowledge that there may be participants in the room who have had abortions themselves, or have people they care about who have. It may have been a negative or positive experience for them, and, there may be those who have had negative/traumatic experiences relating to reproductive health.
Abortion is for many of us an issue that impacts us or people we care about in deeply personal ways. As we begin—notice if the idea of exploring this issue raises any emotions for you. Please share one emotion you are feeling in the chat so we can all be aware of what this issue raises for one another. Read out loud some or all the emotions that participants add to the chat. Point out any trends that you notice.
Facilitator’s Tip: This is an opportunity for a pulse check on how participants might feel on this topic. You may have teens who do not support abortion for various reasons; others may not be sure how they feel or have lots of questions. Participants should feel comfortable sharing their questions, their confusion, or their beliefs. This session looks at abortion access as a key part of reproductive justice, from the standpoint that the ability to make choices about a person’s body, health, and families has consequences in all areas in a person’s life. The goal is to create a space where participants can be open to learning more about this key issue in our country today that impacts people both like them and very different from them, while building understanding and empathy for what the consequences would be for those people if access to reproductive health is further limited.
We will hold the feelings you all just named with care throughout today’s session. Now, we are going to start off by taking a moment to look at real statistics about the picture of abortion today. I want you to open a browser on your computer/device/phone and type in the search bar “abortion statistics in 2022.” Take a moment to open one of results that show up and look through it. Give everyone a couple of minutes for this, and then bring their attention back together.
Alternatively you can share this with your participants: Abortion in the U.S.: What the data says | Pew Research Center so they don’t have to sort through statistics from unknown sources.
In the chat, share one statistic that stood out to you. What did that particular statistic tell you about how access to abortion impacts people? How do you feel about these statistics?
Discuss together the various statistics about abortion that they found. These statistics give a picture of what abortion access actually looks like today, and indications for the types of impact it will have if abortion becomes more restricted.
Share this link: Abortion Laws by State – Center for Reproductive Rights
Now that abortion access is not protected federally, it is left to individual states to determine. This link has an interactive map that shows how abortion access fared in the 2022 midterm elections (the first election following the Dobbs decision).
- What is abortion access like in your state?
- Does anything stand out to you in looking at this map?
Shleimut & Hesed: Centering Personal Wholeness & Caring Connections in Abortion Discussions (20 minutes)
Have your copy of the Abortion Stories padlet and the blank Jamboard ready to share.
I’m going to share a link to a padlet in the chat. On the padlet are links to various abortion stories that are part of the Abortion Out Loud and 1 in 3 campaigns, both part of a storytelling campaign by Advocates for Youth to which over 1500 people have contributed their abortion stories. Through these campaigns, Advocates for Youth continues to share stories and connect storytellers with policy makers who are making decisions about abortion access. I’m going to give you 5 minutes to choose 1 of the videos to watch, and 1-2 of the written stories to read (they are short), and then we are going to come back together to discuss.
After 5 minutes, gather everyone’s attention.
I’m now going to send you into breakout rooms for 5-7 minutes. With the other people in your breakout room, share and discuss the following:
- What, if anything, in the stories you witnessed did you personally identify with?
- Imagine that one of the people whose story you read/watched is a friend or someone you care about, and they had just shared with you about their decision to have an abortion. What would you say to them as words of support? What questions might you ask to show them support, and allow the conversation to stay centered on them and their experience? (I.e., “How was it for you?”; “What do you need?”)
- Put these ideas on the Jamboard that I am going to share in the chat—grab post-it notes from the left side to add your words.
- For the people whose stories you witnessed, were there any barriers they shared that made their decision to get an abortion, or their attempt to obtain abortion care, more difficult? Based on what they shared, can you imagine any other potential barriers that might have also existed that they didn’t name?
After 5 – 7 minutes, bring everyone back together. Ask for a couple of people to share what came up in their breakout room. Share your screen with the Jamboard of words of support that participants added. And as you talk, encourage participants to add anything that they didn’t have a chance to add while in their breakout room.
There are some powerful words of support here. Why do words of support matter? (discuss) Abortion impacts individuals in deeply personal ways. As we just discussed, the words we choose when talking to someone about the choices they have made (or are not able to make) related to abortion can have real power for that individual. The way we talk about abortion within public discourse also matters. We know it is a highly politicized issue. But as we just explored, it is a deeply human issue. Not only do words matter in the conversations with have with one another about abortion, the way abortion is talked about in public discourse matters, as well. For this reason, many of the organizations and campaigns that are currently fighting for reproductive justice name combatting abortion stigma as one of the key ways that individuals can make a difference. We have the power to support and recognize that humanity by the words we choose in both personal and more public discussions. What is abortion stigma, and why does it matter? Share your screen with this pdf. Zoom in to be able to read the smaller text. Ask your participants what they see in the slide, and to explain it in their own words.
Facilitator’s Tip: This slide shows that stigma is impacted by different things such as geography, race, gender, etc. (the top row), the levels at which it can have impact, how it manifests at those levels, and its potential consequences. Ask your participants if they can come up with examples to illustrate the consequences of this stigma. Encourage them to think of examples from the Jamboard or from their lives.
According to Planned Parenthood: “Stigma harms people who’ve had abortions and people who provide abortions. It causes shame, silence, and isolation. It makes it harder for people to get care or ask for support when they need an abortion. Stigma perpetuates outdated expectations of gender, contributing to gender norms that harm women, people assigned female at birth, and people with feminine gender expressions.” The way we choose to talk about abortion can help resist stigma. Let’s look one more time at the list of supportive words we created for the people whose stories we heard. Are there any more you’d like to add? Reshare your screen with the Jamboard and invite participants to add more ways to talk about abortion.
Tzedek: Abortion & Reproductive Justice (10 minutes)
Abortion rights and access are part of reproductive justice. Let’s watch a quick video to explain what that term means, and its history. Note that Reproductive Justice started from, and still is, a Black and BIPOC led movement.
Share your screen and computer sound. Then play the video: The History of Reproductive Justice – YouTube (2:08)
The video defines reproductive justice as “a human right that can only be achieved when all women and girls [or all people] have the complete economic, social, political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives.” Feel free to share out loud, or in the chat.
- What are things that might be included in or impact Reproductive Justice, beyond abortion rights?
Facilitator’s Tip: this could include things like clean drinking water while pregnant or for your children, access to nutritious food and healthcare, access to contraception, being paid equally with people who are white or male, the history of forced sterilization of Black, Latina, Native, and disabled people in this country, etc.
ReproJustice & Standing in Our Judaism (10 minutes)
Religious discussions around abortion today tend to center a recent dominant interpretation of a Christian/Catholic understanding of life. Christianity’s perspective on abortion is often simplified in a way that ignores the existing range of interpretation and the fact that before the 20th century in the United States, abortion was a much less central issue in Christianity and politically. Jewish wisdom on abortion, and on reproductive rights, is also not unified. There are many texts that support the right to abortion and that define life very differently from how the Christian Right in the United States today defines it. In fact, many Jews recognize abortion as essential healthcare that is not only permitted, but in some cases, required by our tradition. I am going to share with you a source sheet with a variety of Jewish texts that can be used regarding abortion, with commentary/explanations by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg of National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) OR an article from My Jewish Learning on Abortion and Judaism (paste into the chat the link to whichever of the two sources you chose for your group):
- Torah of Repro Freedom.pdf – Google Drive (Source Sheet by NCJW)
- Abortion and Judaism | My Jewish Learning
I’m going to give you 5 minutes to read the texts on your own, and after 5 minutes, I am going to put you back into your breakout room. In your breakout room, you will have 5 minutes to discuss the following questions (which I will paste in the chat):
- Did any of the texts add to your beliefs or opinions about abortion and reproductive justice? Which one(s) and why?
- Think back to the stories you read/watched earlier. Can you talk about their story using some of the values or ideas expressed in these texts?
Reflection & Closing (10 minutes)
Bring your participants back from their breakout rooms.
- What if anything from the Jewish texts/commentary surprise you?
- What is one thing that you and your partners discussed that added to your beliefs/opinions about abortion and reproductive justice?
- Judaism is about how we apply our values, ideas, beliefs from wisdom into our actions and interactions. What is one thing from our discussion today that is sticking with you, that you would like to translate into action (of words and/or deeds) as a Jewish teen?
I am going to give you 2 minutes to write something to complete this sentence: “Something new that I would like to do in the next few weeks to advance reproductive justice is…and I want to do so as a Jewish teen because…” If you want to learn more before becoming an advocate, what would you like to learn? If you need more ideas, here are a couple of links with couple of links of tangible things you can do for inspiration [paste in chat, and give participants a couple of minutes to think before going around the zoom to close]:
- Passing the Women’s Health Protection Act
- Abortion Access Fund – National Network of Abortion Funds
- Six Ways You Can Join the Fight for Abortion Rights | News & Commentary | American Civil Liberties Union (aclu.org)
- Planned Parenthood Jobs and Volunteering Opportunities
- Invite the adults in your lives to partner with you and share these resources with them: Resources for Talking with Teens: Reproductive Rights & Sexual Health – Moving Traditions
- Abortion wasn’t always the politically charged issue it is today : NPR
- Applying an Intersectional Analysis to Reproductive Justice and Other Forms of Oppression: Collaborating Across Movements and Issues (vawnet.org)
- Resources for Talking with Teens: Reproductive Rights & Sexual Health
Close by going around the Zoom and having each person read what they wrote.
Special thanks to the Hadassah Foundation for supporting our 2023 Kol Koleinu fellows to update this resource for use this year.