Jews and Abortion:

My father tells me that he has quite a few Jewish friends in their 60s and 70s who tell him that they would vote for McCain over Obama but for the issue of abortion rights. This is a bit odd; obviously, few people in their 60s and 70s are concerned that they will have direct need for an abortion; the friends in question live in New York, which had legal abortion even before Roe v. Wade, and will continue to have it regardless of whether the Supreme Court further backtracks on Roe.

My father's experience is consistent with polling I've seen, and with my own anecdotal experiences. The polls show that some absurdly high percentage of Jews believe in strong abortion rights. And my anecdotal experience suggests that many Jews do consider opposition to abortion rights a dealbreaker for political candidates, elevating it about other considerations.

This is certainly not a question of Jewish tradition. Jewish law is not nearly as hostile to abortion as, say, Catholicism, but it is not exactly encouraged, either.

So why are Jews--even elderly Jews who live in states where abortion is protected by the political process--so concerned with the issue?

My guess is that they see abortion rights as a heuristic for "a (politically) secular society." They know that most political opposition to abortion rights comes from (Christian) religious sources, and so they associate such opposition with a mixing of religion and state, something that most American Jews are very much against.