The following letter was written to a doctor who asked the Rebbe about various medical issues in halacha. After detailing his opinion on the topics of Observant Jews being practicing physicians, the problems of "birth control" and "family planning," the Rebbe went on to discuss the issue of abortion.
The Rebbe was candid in his opinion,
“The destruction of a fetus is strictly prohibited except, as mentioned, in extraordinary cases.” This law is just as applicable for Jews as is is for non-Jews as the Rebbe went on to say, “ you surely know that Jewish Law makes it incumbent upon Jews to use their influence with non-Jews to help promote the so-called Seven Laws that have been given to the children of Noah, with all their ramifications. These laws include also the prohibition of abortion.”
The Rebbe went on to make another strong point based off of the Gemara which states that Moshiach will only come after the birth of all the children who have to be born,
“Thus it is clear that when even a single woman aborts the birth of a child, it is not just her affair or her own problem, but it affects the Geulah of all our Jewish people and with it the Geulah of the whole world.”
In the Rebbe’s words:
The beginning of the letter:
By the Grace of G-d
20th of Shevat, 5743 Brooklyn, N.Y.
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter which reached me with considerable delay. In it you pose the question whether a doctor can practice medicine while being a fully observant Jew.
The best proof that there is no conflict between the two is the fact that there are many Jewish doctors who are fully observant Jews in all matters of Torah and mitzvos and do not have to make any concessions in either area. Of course, the classical example is our great Rambam (Maimonides), but there is really no need to cite such giants when in every city where there is a sizable Jewish community, you can find fully Orthodox Jewish physicians.
With regard to the question whether to go into private practice, citing some pros and cons in general a great deal depends to each individual case and various factors and conditions, which are also subject to change and differ from one hospital to another and even in the same hospital or medical center, the administration might also undergo a change, and so on. The best advice one can obtain would be, of course, from colleagues and acquaintances who have made the change and have been in private practice for some time. Thus you could benefit from their experience and advice.
With regard to the matter of prescribing birth control and like, no doubt you know the recent furor which has come to light (despite efforts to cover up or minimize) about the side effects of various birth control drugs and other methods. Aside from discernable physical side effects, little has been said about the psychological effect, which is in any case very difficult to assess properly, inasmuch as there are other contributing factors in most cases.
However, as a matter of general approach, it is understandable, even from the scientific viewpoint, that interference with the natural order of things is not recommendable except when there are compelling health reasons to do so.
One has also to take into consideration that the so-called "Family Planning," deals with people who are in the age of child bearing and while they may consider the matter of birth control today, they may well have a change of heart and mind later on and find that they have missed their opportunity to have more children. Obviously this would have a serious psychological effect.
Needless to say, what medical science has found out about the side effects of birth control drugs is primarily confined to relatively short term effects. What long term effects might be cannot be forseen at this time.
So much for the general principle of it, even aside from the Torah viewpoint. Of course, where there is a particular individual case, it is necessary to consult with a practicing Rov.
The continuation of the letter, getting to the crux of the issue:
Everyone should realize that there is a Creator and Master of the world Who has prescribed a definite order by which the human race should live. The destruction of a fetus is strictly prohibited except, as mentioned, in extraordinary cases.
There is really no difference in this matter between Jewish or non-Jewish patients. First of all, you surely know that Jewish Law makes it incumbent upon Jews to use their influence with non-Jews to help promote the so-called Seven Laws that have been given to the children of Noah, with all their ramifications. These laws include also the prohibition of abortion. Indeed, for some reason, the Torah declared that destruction of a fetus by a non-Jew is even more serious than by a Jew not that abortion can be treated lightly by Jews, as outlined above.
It is well known that I do not, nor is it one of my functions, to pasken shaalos, especially as there is the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and similar Rabbinic bodies who have come out clearly and emphatically against family planning and the like. I have gone out of my way to express my views on the matter in this letter only because abortion has become now not only widely acceptable but, on the contrary, it is claimed to be a thing of justice, women's independence, etc. etc., although it makes no sense to say that a woman should have a right to kill an unborn child or even a fetus in order to assert her independence. Nevertheless, so great is the confusion and darkness of the present day and age, that even some persons of higher education and supposedly knowledgeable in the fields of ethics and philosophy and the like, have also come out in support of this evil.
Finally, I would like to make reference to a saying of our Sages which, at first glance seems incomprehensible, but it is nevertheless part of our Torah, Toras Chaim, our true guide in life. This Talmudic saying is to the effect that the true and complete Geulah will come only after the birth of all the children who have to be born. Thus it is clear that when even a single woman aborts the birth of a child, it is not just her affair or her own problem, but it affects the Geulah of all our Jewish people and with it the Geulah of the whole world.
In light of the above, there can be no doubt that it is not only proper and right, but also a direct obligation on the part of every Jew, to do whatever is possible in this area, as well as in all matters of Torah and mitzvos to the best of one's ability and influence.
The Letter and the Spirirt, Vol. 5, PP 116
The Halacha varies in context of levels of danger to the mother and stage of the pregnancy.
Therefore, it is imperative to consult a Rov in all cases, whether is seems to be a case where one should be maikel or machmir.