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Jewish pro-life activist Medved says children are ‘a gift, not a choice’

By Leon Cohen
of The Chronicle staff

May 7th, 2004

Many Jews, including some from Wisconsin, participated in the recent March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., to show support for, among other things, the pro-choice position on abortion.

Indeed, many polls show that the U.S. Jewish community has one of the highest rates of support for the pro-choice position in the American population.

For example, according to a 2000 survey by “Jews and the American Public Square,” a project of the Baltimore-based Center for Jewish Community Studies, 88 percent of the Jewish public agreed that “Abortion should be generally available to those who want it,” as compared to 58 percent of the general public.

The same survey found that only ten percent of American Jews believe “Abortions should be more difficult to obtain than they are now,” compared to 41 percent of the general U.S. public.

Author, film critic, radio talk show host and Jewish conservative Michael Medved is one of the most visible and outspoken of that ten percent.

He came to Milwaukee last week to be featured speaker at the annual dinner held by Wisconsin Right to Life, attended by more than 650 people, according to WRL executive director Barbara Lyons.

And Lyons said WRL invited him because “we had heard him last summer at the National Right to Life convention in St. Louis” and “we were impressed and moved by his presentation.”

So why does this Jewish man support a movement that most other American Jews regard as an enemy?

In a telephone interview Monday from Seattle, where he lives, Medved said he gradually evolved from having been “reflexively pro-choice” 30 years ago, partly because of his growing involvement in Judaism.

“I can understand why some people would emphasize a Jewish basis for pro-life activism,” said Medved. “What makes zero sense is the idea of a Jewish basis for pro-choice activism.”

‘Focus on real dangers’

“Jewish law for millennia has been extremely clear, that abortion is only permitted when the life of the mother is directly threatened,” he said. To link Jewish tradition to the pro-choice position is “ludicrous and ignorant.”

This does not mean he wants secular U.S. law to conform to Jewish religious law. In fact, “If I were a voting member of Congress, I would probably … favor some kind of ‘wiggle room’ regarding access to abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy.”

Nevertheless, abortion on demand is fundamentally contrary to Jewish law, and the general Jewish community attitudes reflect “a deep problem in our community; that we have gotten very far from the idea of viewing children as a blessing, which is the traditional Jewish approach.”

Medved said he told the WRL audience about his experience of blessing his three children every Sabbath eve. “When you put your hands on the heads of your children, you don’t bless them saying, ‘I’m so glad I made a choice here.’” The blessing is “an acknowledgement that children are a gift, not a choice.”

Moreover, “I think it is arrogant and destructive for human beings to believe that they are ultimately in control of life and death,” he said.

So why are most Jews in the pro-choice camp? Medved said there is one reason that is “the key to understanding” not only this but also much other American Jewish behavior: “Because Christians are pro-life and we’re afraid of them. We are constantly in fear in this country of Christians imposing their religion and faith on us.”

But this “wildly exaggerated” fear “comes from another continent and another era,” he said. “I know many Jews don’t like to hear this, but the truth is that the history of American anti-Semitism has never been comparable to the horrors of Europe…. This country has been incredibly good to us.”

And the Jewish community needs “to focus on real dangers and to try to move away from imagined dangers,” Medved said. “Right now there is very real danger to every Jew from Islamo-fascist killers” and “from secular leftists who want the destruction of Israel.”

“But nowhere on earth is the major danger to Jews at the moment coming from religious Christians,” he continued. “As a matter of fact, on most issues of real concern to Jews, including support for Israel, the religious Christians are hugely supportive; and they are regularly targeted by the same Islamic crazies who want to kill us.”

“A failure to make common cause with American Christians with reference to the Spanish Inquisition of 500 years ago is a luxury than an embattled people cannot afford,” he said.

Medved’s daily radio program is “the eighth most listened to radio talk show in the U.S.,” he said. It is not carried in Milwaukee, but does air on four other Wisconsin radio stations.

He is the author of “Hollywood vs. America” and is co-author with his wife, child psychologist Diane Medved, of “Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence.”