Israel Easing Access to Abortion

Abortions have always been widely accessible in Israel but subject to the approval of a local review committee, which typically meets at neighborhood health facilities.  In more religious neighborhoods, pregnant applicants may be subject to a somewhat aggressive interrogation, but they are generally approved.  What follows are snippets of a NY Times opinion article by an Israeli-American activist/journalist, Mairav Zonszein, published in June, 2015 (“Israel’s Abortion Committees“):  

Each committee includes a social worker and two doctors. The law stipulates four criteria, any of which is sufficient for approval: If the woman is below 18 or over 40; if the fetus is in danger; if the mother’s mental or physical health is at risk; or if the pregnancy occurs out of wedlock or is the result of rape or incest.  

. . .  in practice, 98 percent of abortion requests in Israel are approved. But of the approximately 40,000 abortions performed each year, only around half go through the committees.

The other estimated 20,000 are being conducted illegally, through doctors at private clinics, not at home or in alleyways. There are plenty of doctors you can find online at the click of a button. While they are theoretically subject to punitive legal measures, their patients are not — and the authorities simply look the other way. . . .

As reported in The Times of Israel, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (head of the Meretz party) has announced a major easing of abortion policy:

The Knesset Labor Welfare and Health Committee on Monday approved new regulations aimed at making it easier for women to get an abortion . . . .

A key change to the decades-old regulations will see drug-induced early-term abortions made available at HMO clinics rather than only at hospitals, the Health Ministry said in a statement announcing the development.

Women seeking an abortion will no longer have to physically face a review committee that approves abortions. Nixing the committee altogether requires legislation, which is unlikely to pass, but the new regulations mean there will now be no need for applicants to appear in person before the panels. 

The application process will be digitized, enabling committee members to have access to all necessary information and at the same time obviating the need for a woman to drop off the paperwork in person. The request form, which in the past has faced criticism for being too invasive and humiliating, will also be updated, with the questionnaire reduced to a minimum and “degrading questions” removed, the statement said.  . . .

“The rights to a woman’s body are those of the woman alone,” said Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in the statement. . . .

“The move by the US Supreme Court to deny women control of their bodies is a backward move, oppressing women and setting back the leader of the free and liberal world by a hundred years,” Horowitz said.