Israel law currently requires women seeking abortions to obtain permission from a committee consisting of three representatives from the hospital or abortion facility that will commit the abortion. Now, the new, more abortion-friendly health minister is seeking to change that.
Abortion in Israel
Abortion is legal in Israel if the mother is younger than 18 or older than 40, if the preborn child has a serious medical condition, if the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s physical or mental health, if the child was conceived out of wedlock, and if the child was conceived during rape or incest. If the woman is beyond 24 weeks pregnant, then she must go to a special committee for approval.
According to Kol-Zchut, a website about rights in Israel, the committees consist of an OB/GYN specialist, an additional medical specialist, and a social worker who must approve abortion requests after interviewing women. The social worker’s job is to determine their reason for wanting an abortion, as well as whether they are married, using contraception, and other personal questions related to their pregnancy. While the cost of most abortions is covered by the government, some women wishing to skip the committee visit private abortion facilities and pay out of pocket instead.
In the end, 99% of all abortions are said to be approved by these committees, which means abortion advocates view the committees as pointless. And if the committees are comprised of anyone who has financial incentive in abortion, then clearly there is a conflict of interest, and the committees are, indeed, pointless. In fact, Ruth Tidhar of the pro-life group Efrat said, “[The committees are] not a hurdle now; they’re a rubber stamp. The committees are not doing their job. As far as Efrat is concerned, we can do away with them.”
Changing the law
In December, the new health minister, Nitzan Horowitz, said he planned to reform the law by eliminating the committees altogether for women in the first trimester. Instead, the committees will become advisory only for women in the second trimester, and they will still be able to refuse an abortion in the third trimester. In addition, the Health Ministry led by Horowitz is attempting to move the end-of-pregnancy questionnaire from in-person to online, and eliminate questions regarding contraceptive use, marital status, and woman’s age.
“I wasn’t willing to have my abortion in Israel because of the review committee,” said a mid-30s professional woman from the U.S. who became pregnant while in Israel. “I was disgusted by the fact that I would have to justify my decision in front of a board of people I didn’t know, who would decide what to do with my body.”
The legislation, even with the support of Horowitz, could face a big challenge — the government is still mostly conservative. “The Health Ministry is trying to do the maximum within its power with respect to end-of-pregnancy committees to make things easier for women,” said Dina Shalev, director of Ladaat, a sexual health organization. “Up until now there was no Health Ministry that was worth trying to work with us. The minute we knew that Nitzan Horowitz would be the health minister, we got together and started promoting this law again.”
She noted that Israel still has “a conservative coalition and government in general.”
Abortion is inhumane — for women and children
Mentioned by the Times of Israel, Orin, who underwent an abortion, took the abortion pill in an abortion facility, and sat with other women who had also taken an abortion pill. “I was embarrassed to scream. There were strangers there… It reminded me of a cowshed or ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,'” she said. “It was not humane to experience an abortion on a chair.”
When Orin took the abortion pill, she suffered, but her child also suffered. Her child was deprived of nutrients, and then forced out of her natural environment. In the second trimester D&E abortion procedure, preborn children — some old enough to survive outside the womb — die by dismemberment. Their arms and legs are torn from their torsos, and their heads are crushed. It doesn’t get more inhumane than that. Preborn children, even in the first trimester, are now believed to have the ability to feel pain.
Yet abortion advocates seem to feel it’s more horrific for a woman to have to justify killing her child than it is to actually kill the child. Preborn children are are living, innocent human beings who are developing and growing. Women instinctively know this, and often suffer for it. Even abortion advocates in Israel know this. That’s why in addition to removing committees, they also want more emotional support available for women after abortions.
“From the beginning to the end, there’s ignoring of the whole emotional side of this thing. It’s not even a factor,” said Orin. “I really became depressed. I cried whole days. I couldn’t leave the house. It was hard for me to shower. Everything hurt, 24/7.”
She added: “‘You made a mistake and let’s get past it as quickly as possible’ — that’s the feeling [I got]. I wasn’t prepared, and it made it so traumatic.”
Emotional support “is not something that really broadly exists,” said Nitzan Hacohen, social worker and counseling network director at the sexual health organization Open Door.
Women need emotional support after an abortion, because abortion is traumatic. Women who have undergone abortions are at an increased risk of depression, drug use, alcohol use, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. The trauma they feel isn’t because other people are shaming them; it’s because they chose to have their child deliberately killed.
No committee can with validity approve or justify abortion; the very idea of a group of human beings deciding which weaker human beings can be ‘justifiably’ killed and which cannot is unjust on its face.
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