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Chicago Rabbis Sanction Abortion when Mother’s Life is Endangered

Rabbis polled in Chicago were reported in agreement that Jewish religious law sanctions abortion when the mother’s life or mental well-being is at stake.

The poll was taken by the Chicago Sentinel as an outgrowth of the controversy which developed when an Arizona television personality, Sherri Finkbine, sought a legal abortion after taking Thalidomide, a drug which was found to have caused many births of deformed infants in Europe. Refused a legal abortion in the United States, she went to Europe for the operation.

The Chicago rabbis said that the embryo is nothing more than “a limb of the mother,” until it is fully developed and that limbs may be amputated, if necessary, without violation of Jewish law. Several references were made to Jewish sanction of “therapeutic abortion,” one rabbi saying that his approval of such abortion was contingent on a group of physicians approving the operation.