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Casey v. Planned Parenthood of
Southeastern Pennsylvania

Supreme Court of the United
States (1991)


Agudath Israel of America, founded in 1922, is a national grassroots Orthodox Jewish movement. The movement is led, and its policies determined, by a group of prominent senior Orthodox rabbinical figures respected broadly as outstanding scholars of Jewish law and decisors of Jewish policy.

Informed by classical Jewish tradition which teaches that all human life is sacred, and possessed of the firm view that laws which undermine the sanctity of human life send a message that is profoundly dangerous for all of society, Agudath Israel speaks out frequently on a broad panoply of public policy issues that arise at the outset and conclusion of the human life cycle. Consistent with this approach, Agudath Israel has long opposed the central holding of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), that the right to abortion protected under the Fourteenth Amendment's personal liberty/due process clause is uniformly "fundamental," and thereby protected against governmental abridgment absent a compelling state interest.

At the same time, as a representative of a religious minority community whose constituents rely heavily on the religious freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment, Agudath Israel is a staunch advocate of religious liberty for all Americans. Here again, the issue of abortion figures prominently on Agudath Israel's agenda. Jewish tradition accords fetal life significant protection. As a general rule, Judaism rejects the notion that termination of pregnancy, even prior to fetal viability, is properly a matter of free maternal choice. Nonetheless, in certain exceptional cases, Jewish law may authorize abortion -- indeed, may require abortion as a matter of religious obligation. Accordingly, in conjunction with its opposition to legalized abortion on demand, Agudath Israel has supported a woman's legal right to abortion where she seeks the abortion as an expression of her religious faith.

Agudath Israel's interest herein relates primarily to what Judge Alito referred to below as "the crux of this case. . . the identification of the constitutional standard that the lower courts must now apply in cases involving laws regulating abortion." Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 947 F.2d 682, 720 (3rd Cir.1991 ) (Alito, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Agudath Israel believes the time is ripe for this Court expressly to discard the "fundamental right/compelling state interest" framework of Roe v. Wade, and to adopt in its place a jurisprudential framework that is at once protective of human fetal life yet solicitous of religious freedom. It is the objective of this amicus brief to attempt to outline such a framework.

Through their respective counsel, the parties have consented to the appearance of Agudath Israel as amicus curiae.

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