In 2013, the National Council of Jewish Women celebrates its 120th year. For most of that time, NCJW members have been working toward gaining and ensuring reproductive rights for women.
NCJW was an early supporter of Margaret Sanger’s work, passing a 1931 resolution in favor of women’s access to confidential family planning services. So it is no surprise that many NCJW Austin Section members, feeling inspired by their Jewish values, took an active role in opposing the omnibus bills drastically restricting access to abortion in Texas.
For many of these women, it’s a passion that will not wane.
In June and July, many NCJW members spent hours in hearing and overflow rooms waiting to testify during the first and second special sessions. The bill ultimately passed, but not without a fight.
Susan Pintchovski, NCJW state policy advocacy co-chair from Austin, was able to give oral testimony in committee hearing. Pintchovski spoke at 2:30 a.m.
Hundreds of others, after hours of waiting, some traveling long distances to get to Austin, never heard their names called.
NCJW women joined with thousands of others at the Capitol to witness the Senate and House floor debates as NCJW Continues History of Reproductive Rights Support well as the historic and remarkable filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis.
My own testimony was one of many that the senator singled out to read during her filibuster because I was not called to deliver it at the public hearing.
In part it reads, “As a person of faith, as a Jew, I am dismayed that some religious views are not being taken into account and respected as this bill aims to make it more and more difficult for a woman to have access to abortion care. My faith is clear on the issue. My Jewish values state that every woman has a right to self-determination. And Judaism views the well-being of the mother as paramount, placing the highest value on existing life.”
Many NCJW Austin members, showed their passion at the Stand With Texas Women rally held July 1 at the Capitol experienced the true spirit of democracy in action.
Lisa Saslavsky said, “I have been to many marches and rallies in D.C., and this felt much more personal and emotional. Seeing so many people in the capitol was exhilarating.”
Pintchovski said, “As members of the Jewish community and the Austin Section of NCJW bore witness to Senator Davis’ poise and endurance as she spoke out for us all, we also excitedly sensed a new balance of power in Texas’s future, one that promotes and protects every woman’s right to reproductive choice.”
Lisa Humphrey said her experience was “really empowering and amazing.”
For me, it truly felt that the Capitol belonged to the people of Texas.
Months prior to her newfound national and international fame, NCJW honored Senator Davis in February 2013 at the group’s biennial Day on the Hill event during the regular legislative session.
Davis was presented with the Woman Who Dared Award for her work during the 2011 Session to prevent cuts to education that ultimately occurred during the special session that year.
NCJW, a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action, has been at the forefront of social change for 120 years.
Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.
The Austin Section, inspired by Jewish values, remains committed to standing on the front lines to secure women’s health and reproductive choices, including the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion care.
By Ellen Sable