Naturally, there is a range of opinions in all matters and these can be looked to as being within the fold of halakhah. There are piskei halakhah, rather than the pesak halakhah. Within Rabbinic Judaism, one is to look to a particular rabbi for their direction.
I would like to list the names of but a few of the better known rabbis, all of whom have written major works in the area of Jewish medical ethics: Rabbis Immanuel Jakobovits, Yitzchok Breitowitz, David Feldman, Isaac Klein, Elliot Dorff and J. David Bleich. Please note that this list is not exhaustive.
Rabbi Dr. David Feldman wrote a pioneering work dealing with all concerns facing marital issues in Judaism. His book Marital Relations originally appeared under the title Birth Control in Jewish Law. An early work that covers broader ethical issues, written by the former Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, Jewish Law Faces Modern Problems, is still of great value.
Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz, who is also a professor of law at the University of Maryland, pointed out in a public lecture, that the matter of abortion in Jewish Law is a highly nuanced matter and is not dealt with as it is in Christianity, especially by the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. This is so since in Judaism the status of the relationship between mother and fetus is perceived differently
Since according to Judaism, under very circumscribed circumstances, abortion may be permitted- even mandated - Rabbi Breitowitz mentioned that Jews describe themselves as pro-choice rather than pro-life. Of course, this characterization was said in the context of a lively and even entertaining public lecture. I cannot speak on behalf of Rabbi Breitowitz, who is a great authority in all areas of Jewish medical ethics. He has the last word as to his current positions and recommendations.
In his monumental work A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, Rabbi Isaac Klein presents five questions relating to a woman considering abortion. Of these, two are, “Is abortion permitted—1. When the mother’s life is threatened? 2. When the mother’s health is imperiled?”
There are two concepts in Torah sources that must be considered: nefesh tahat nefesh—the prohibition of taking one life to save another, and ubar yerekh imo hu—the fetus is [considered] a limb of the mother.
Another consideration brought forth by Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah is that of a rodef—pursuer—or one that is a threat to the very life of the mother. Such a pursuer or rodef can be the ubar—fetus. In a case such as this, one would of necessity do whatever is possible to preserve the life of the mother.
It should be noted that we are talking about life—nefesh, and fetus—ubar. Before the actual birth, the mother is considered “life” and the fetus is considered “potential life.” Judaism and Rabbinic sources do not call an ubar—fetus—a baby. Using the term baby or tinok (Heb.) for a fetus, is confusing and, to my way of thinking, prejudicial.
In more recent times, a question has arisen in determining what is meant by a woman’s health. Some authorities have considered extending the concept of health to include psychological health. This, of course, in modern times, is seen to be no less serious than the physical wellbeing of the mother.
Nonetheless, such matters as whether or not to undergo abortion are taken very seriously. As a rule, Judaism forbids abortion, but there are extenuating circumstances when an abortion may be permitted and even mandated. Under no circumstances does Judaism condone abortion as a form of contraception.
Those abortions that are permitted under Jewish Law are not considered murder. Abortions are thought of as ending life in potential, but not murder, as some in the media would lead us to believe.