Community leaders divided over abortion


Harvey Weisenberg, a former state assemblyman, Long Beach police officer, teacher and at 86, the city’s oldest working lifeguard, has developed a unique perspective on the issue of abortion.

Two decades ago, he adopted a special child, Ricky, who he showers with love. Weisenberg cannot imagine allowing Rickey, now in his early 60s, to have been aborted. But he remembers his last assignment as a police officer decades ago: a woman lay in an alleyway after trying to abort her baby with a wire hanger. In her case, he had hoped an abortion in a hospital would have been possible. But that was years before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe V. Wade decision, now overturned by a new decision by the high court last week.

“I was devastated that someone would have to do this,” said Weisenberg, of the woman. “I respect both sides” of the issue. It is a decision made with God and the doctor. But in the end it is the woman’s decision.”

Weisenberg was a member of the State Assembly when it approved legislation in 2011 allowing abortions in the state Weisenberg voted with the majority to approve the bill.

But Long Beach’s religious and community leaders are divided on the issue that has ignited a firestorm across the country since the Supreme Court last week, by a 6-3 vote, ruled there is no Constitutional right to an abortion, and that whether to allow such procedures going forward should be left to the individual states, The High Court’s conservative majority voted against continuing Roe v . Wade.

The Rev. Susan K. Bock, spiritual leader of Saint James of Jerusalem Episcopal Church in Long Beach, took a strong position against the court;’s ruling.

“I  am deeply offended by the hubris of our Supreme Court in reversing Roe v Wade, a decision that will bring profound suffering and sorrow to countless Americans, including families and children, especially those who are poor and people of color,” she said in an email. 

She was angry, she said “at what feels like an erosion of the hard-won rights of women to shape their own lives. No woman obtains an abortion without the pain, guilt, and grief that she is willing to bear because, for one of many complex reasons, she cannot bring a child into the world. Her choice should be met with compassion, humility, and practical support. In fear and trembling, I dare to “speak for God” every Sunday, though often, surely, I get it wrong. But of this I am certain: God is weeping over our nation’s hypocrisy in passionately “protecting unborn children” while quietly allowing the children already among us to suffer poverty, hunger, neglect, abuse, and slaughter in their classrooms.”

Frank McQuade, a conservative who ran on the Republican ticket a few years ago for Nassau County District Attorney, said he is pleased with the court’s decision, but “in a somber way,” because, he said, the issue is so heart-wrenching for women. McQuade, a regular church goer, said he believes the question of abortion should be left to the states.

And, he said, “I follow the science. Human life begins at conception.”

Judi Vining, executive director of Long Beach Aware, was blunt.  “I am appalled,” she said.  

“My grandchildren will not have the same rights I had,” she said. “This is an agonizing decision.” She said “The only thing that can be done is for voters to elect candidates who support the now-former Roe V Wade ruling.

“I’m not optimistic,” Vining said.  “But maybe this is the thing that turns people into activists.”

Rabbi Eli Goodman, spiritual leader of Chabad of the Beaches, said he plans on offering a course on the issue July 14 at the synagogue, at 570 West Walnut St.

“I would like people to come to learn the importance of a fetus,” Goodman said. “It’s something we have to take very seriously.” 

Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft of Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, called the decision “a mistake.”

“It’s not reflective of the majority of the population in the United States,” Zanerhaft said. “It’s going to cause more harm than good. It doesn’t look like the consequences will be beneficial for the community.”