Reform Jewish Movement Attacks Bush Pro-Life Judicial Pick Honaker On Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Reform Jewish Movement Attacks Bush Pro-Life Judicial Pick Honaker On Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 26
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — A leading reform Jewish group is weighing in on a political matter, but it’s not related to Israel, terrorism or anti-defamation issues. Instead, two leading groups that represent Reform Jews are asking members of the Senate not to confirm Richard Honaker — President Bush’s pick for a federal judgeship in Wyoming.

Honaker, an attorney and former state legislator, received an appointment from President Bush to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Honaker’s nomination in February and has yet to take a vote.

Top pro-abortion groups have slammed his nomination because Honaker’s efforts to prohibit abortions in Wyoming.

On Thursday the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis sent a joint letter to members of the Senate asking them to reject Honaker because he’s opposed to abortion.

Together the groups represent 1.5 million Reform Jews in 900 congregations across North America.

The groups "oppose the nomination of Richard Honaker .. .on the basis that Mr. Honaker’s confirmation to the Court would threaten protection of those rights including … reproductive freedom."

The Jewish groups said Honaker’s pro-life record "on reproductive rights raises serious concerns about his ability to be an impartial adjudicator."

"Honaker was a major and influential anti-choice ideologue in Wyoming and his failure to state during his hearing that he would uphold Roe v. Wade causes grave concern that challenges to reproductive freedoms would prevail in Wyoming," the groups contend.

During his hearing before the Senate panel, Honaker told members of the committee he would not legislate from the bench.

“I recognize the right to privacy, and I recognize the precedent of the United States Supreme Court,” he said, in acknowledging that lower courts follow the lead of the nation’s highest. “That is the law of the land, and I would apply it."

The criticism from Jewish groups over abortion would seem to go against statements from other Jewish leaders and sacred teaching.

In December, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger issued an opinion saying abortions for socioeconomic reasons or the mother not wanting the baby are wrong.

Metzger said, "The vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and strictly forbidden according to halacha because they are carried out even when the pregnancies do not endanger the mother’s health."

He and other leaders said abortions are delaying the coming of the Messiah, who Jews believe was not represented by Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, in February, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada said Jewish voters should not vote for candidates who support abortion, calling them "antithetical" to Jewish values.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a spokesman for the group, released a video message.

"It is very important for our community to demonstrate its appreciation for our wonderful country by exercising our civic obligation to vote," he says. "However, it is even more important that we do not support any candidate whose position is in any way antithetical to our Torah based morality."

"Candidates who support abortion on demand," Rabbi Levin told in a press release, "are antithetical to our way of life and it is forbidden to support or vote for them."

A Chasidic Rabbinic group, the Central Rabbinical Congress of U.S. and Canada issued a similar manifesto in March 1982.

Honaker is known in pro-life circles for proposing the Human Life Protection Act in the state legislature in 1991 and was behind a subsequent state ballot vote in 1994. Voters defeated the ballot measure that year.

Honaker would fill the seat vacated by U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer, who is retiring and taking on senior status. A hearing on his nomination is expected on February 12.

He is a Harvard graduate with a law degree from the University of Wyoming. He has a private practice in the state and has been the head of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association and the Wyoming State Bar.

ACTION: Contact your senator and urge support for Richard Honaker’s nomination by calling 202-224-3121 or going to