My faith puts health first. Supreme Court abortion ruling would pander to Christian extremists.

Your sister, daughter or best friend is pregnant and excited to be a mom. You fly back to Idaho to help her get ready to give birth, but once you land you realize something is wrong. She’s pale. She’s bleeding, and it won’t stop. You take her to the emergency room. The hospital can’t do anything about it because “she is not at risk of immediately dying.” So you wait. You watch as her condition worsens, her pain escalates, and you stand powerless as you watch a system that prioritizes a fetus at the expense of your loved one.

That looming reality is what’s at stake in Idaho v. United States. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether a state’s near-total abortion ban conflicts with federal requirements for emergency care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

EMTALA was passed by Congress in 1986 to ensure that all patients can access emergency medical care, free of discrimination. We have all needed to use the emergency room at some point in our lives. This case will have real consequences on real lives and jeopardizes our fundamental right to religious freedom.

Protecting emergency reproductive care that prioritizes the life of the pregnant person is at its very core about our right to religious freedom in a country that claims to have separation of church and state. People of all faiths must be able to practice what their religion teaches.

For Jews, our values and text compel us to always prioritize and safeguard the well-being of the pregnant person if their life is at stake.

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This is widely agreed upon among Jews in the United States – 83% of whom believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, all major Jewish denominations issued statements sharing concern for our religious freedom, with particular consensus around cases where the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

A question emerges, indicating the severe implications around the outcome of this Supreme Court case for Jews, atheists and all minority religions: Must we die in order to preserve one Christian understanding of life?

Over the past two years, laws designed by Christian religious extremists, rooted in just one, narrow interpretation of when life begins, have led to dire consequences for people who don’t want to be pregnant and for those who do but face medical complications. The motivation behind these laws does not get talked about enough and should raise serious flags for all who uphold that the United States is a beacon of religious freedom.

The reality is Christian extremists manipulate our democratic system to preserve Christian theocracy. We saw that in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, when we later learned that some justices are reported to have prayed with the anti-abortion evangelicals they cited about morality in the majority opinion.

We saw that when we looked into the funders behind both the Dobbs decision and the case to ban abortion medication and realized they are the same people who put out the “He Gets Us” Jesus ads during the Super Bowl broadcast. Whether on the screen or in our laws, Christian extremists are pulling all levers to advance their moral agenda.

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There's no morality in denying women medical care

There is no morality in denying women the lifesaving emergency medical care they need. And when it comes to abortion, both those of faith and those of no faith support access.

Exodus 21:22-23 recounts a story of two fighting men who injure a pregnant woman, resulting in her subsequent miscarriage. The common rabbinical conclusion of this verse is that the men did not commit murder because the fetus is not a person. Instead, the primary concern is the well-being of the person who was injured. This text has led to the understanding that Judaism values protecting the life of the mother at all stages of pregnancy. This sanctity is core to our religious freedom.

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Ironically, oral arguments for this Idaho case fall during the holy days of Passover, a time when we honor the liberation of Jews. During this time, we also traditionally abstain from working and traveling. Many Jews who would normally go to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments or to engage with this case as it is happening won’t be able to.

The irony and pain of a case deciding our religious freedom being scheduled on a sacred day for Jews further hits at the fundamental idea that our nation is rooted in Christian theocracy despite the many faiths that make up our country.

Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, poses for a photo. Katz is part of a movement of faith leaders fighting for abortion access.
Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, poses for a photo. Katz is part of a movement of faith leaders fighting for abortion access.

It’s time to speak up. A small but loud group of Christian extremists dominate the narrative around abortion and religion. Religious freedom is meant to be a shield to protect and never a sword to discriminate – but in courts and state legislatures across the country, they have continually slashed our freedoms and our rights.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act is one of the last remaining threads of federal reproductive care, and Christian extremists are threatening to destroy it.

When they go before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, once again using religious freedom as an excuse to deny emergency care to pregnant people in desperate circumstances, we need to ask: Whose faith are they championing? I know it’s not mine.

Sheila Katz is the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, a 130-year-old Jewish feminist civil rights organization with more than 210,000 advocates and 49 local sections across the United States.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court emergency abortion case is about religious freedom, too