By Jackie Hajdenberg
(JTA) — In the 1920s, the National Council of Jewish Women helped establish the first 10 birth control clinics in the United States, which later became Planned Parenthood clinics. Now, with the right to abortion under threat, the group is partnering with the National Abortion Federation to raise funds for people who need help to end pregnancies.
As the Supreme Court appears likely to soon overturn Roe v. Wade, NCJW’s Jewish Fund for Abortion Access will help pay for the NAF’s abortion hotline, the largest in the country; to directly support people who must travel to receive abortions because of restrictions in their home states; and to cover medical costs associated with abortion procedures.
The fund, announced during the council’s annual meeting this weekend, marks the first time that the National Council of Jewish Women has undertaken a fundraising effort for another domestic organization. (It has raised funds for progressive causes in Israel in the past.)
The choice to do so felt self-evident, Sheila Katz, the group’s CEO, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“One of the reasons National Abortion Federation is a good partner is because their hotline is the most known and it’s the most turned to,” said Katz. “There’s no need for organizations, including Jewish organizations or synagogues or youth groups, to be reinventing the wheel.”
Since a leaked draft earlier this month suggesting a Supreme Court majority is ready to overturn the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the United States, NCJW has been receiving nonstop emails and calls from organizations and individuals looking to help, as well as from people who are themselves seeking abortion care. The group, which has been organizing around reproductive rights for decades, launched the Rabbis for Repro group in 2020.
On Tuesday, May 17, it is planning the Jewish March for Abortion Rights to take place in Washington, D.C.
Initially, Katz said, the instinct within her group was to support people who stand to lose abortion access by working in local communities and directly with clinics providing abortion care.
“But what we heard overwhelmingly is that people who are getting abortions want to see people who look like them as part of the process and they need people with expertise as part of the process,” she said, noting that NCJW is a historically white organization that does not reflect the lower-income demographic of the people who would be most likely to lose access to legal abortions after the end of Roe v. Wade.
“It really feels powerful and special and a moment of growth for NCJW that we are able to say, ‘We’re not the right people to show up physically,’” Katz said. “So we’re going to provide funding instead.’”
The plan for now is to run the fund for six months, Katz said. The group is also keeping an eye on potential litigation that could challenge a Supreme Court decision to do away with abortion rights.
Approximately 150 Jewish organizations, including representatives from all denominations, are sponsoring the rally in Washington on Tuesday.
Main Photo: Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, speaks at an abortion rights rally in front of the US Supreme Court in December 2021. (Courtesy of Danya Ruttenberg.)