AN OPEN LETTER TO TODD AKIN -Missouri Congressman

menorahwhiteThe Temple, Congregation

B’nai Jehudah


toddakinAn open letter to Todd Akin,

 Missouri Congressman  


Dear Mr. Akin:


I want to thank you.


A few days ago, during a television interview, you presented your views regarding abortion. I hope I quote you correctly when you said: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” 


I find your words abhorrent and offensive. They suggest two things: first, that somehow a woman’s body has a mechanism by which to fight pregnancies resulting from rape; and second, that an inseminated egg is somehow more important than the physical and emotional health of the woman involved. In both instances, I say unequivocally: Shame on you!

So, why do I thank you?

Because I believe that you were honest in your statements. Despite the backtracking and apologies that you have offered, you remain clear in your belief that abortion is not legitimate in almost every situation.

Now, I want to be clear. I am 100% opposed to your position. I believe – and I believe that my Jewish faith tradition supports the view – that a fetus, while clearly potential life, is NOT a child, nor does it have the same rights as the woman, who is carrying it. In the book of Exodus, chapter 21, it states this fact rather simply…you do believe in the Bible, don’t you?

But let me be even clearer. While Jewish tradition does have a range of beliefs regarding abortion, it is my understanding based on reading many rabbinic texts and commentaries, that the primary responsibility is towards the woman – and not to any potential life. Rape is never permitted. There is no such thing as “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape. Rape is rape. And it is a complete violation of human dignity and human rights. Everything must be done to allow a woman to become whole again.

So, let me go back to thanking you.

We live in a country today where politicians of all stripes say whatever is expedient. If the audience requires a certain response, politicians will modulate their message to match their listeners’ views. And so, it is hard – from our presidential candidates on down – to truly understand where these men and women stand on various important issues.

You, sir, did not equivocate in that television interview. You were clear and concise and stated exactly what you believed. Thank you for your honesty. If only ALL of the other candidates would be as refreshingly open and true to their beliefs as you! Then, we – as voters – could more honestly and faithfully cast our ballots…because we would KNOW WITH CERTAINTY where our candidates stand. (And not by how they are portrayed by campaign ads or super-PAC media blitzes.) So, I thank you for setting the bar towards which all candidates should aspire: to say what they truly believe and then allow the electorate to decide.

I live in Kansas. Therefore, I am unable to vote and help decide who will become the next United States Senator from Missouri – you or Senator Claire McCaskill. I know how I would vote because you have told me what you believe.

I respect  your right to believe as you do. I believe that a woman controls her body and no man (or other woman) should have a right to tell her what to do with that body. Abortion is a divisive issue in this country. While I wish it wasn’t so, sadly, we have permitted our government to determine this issue – to mediate between your belief and mine. If all of our current or aspiring elected officials would be as honest as you, then our choices at the ballot box would be much easier to make.

Rabbi Arthur P. Nemitoff

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