Sara*, a Jerusalem resident and mother to a young toddler, had been suffering from a debilitating physical condition when she discovered she was pregnant seven years ago. The idea of caring for a newborn and looking after her toddler while in unrelenting pain was daunting and she strongly considered terminating her pregnancy.
A close friend referred Sara to Just One Life, an Israeli organization dedicated to helping pregnant women in crisis.
Thanks to the team of volunteers and social workers on staff at Just One Life, Sara was given the appropriate tools and support to carry her pregnancy to term and give birth to a healthy baby girl.
“My children are the light of my life,” said Sara. “Despite everything that I have endured, when I see these two beautiful human beings, I know that I am blessed and I thank God every day for the privilege and awesome responsibility of being their mother.”
Based in Jerusalem and active in over 150 cities and towns throughout Israel, Just One Life helps hundreds of women like Sara every year. In cooperation with hospitals, health clinics, government agencies and welfare departments, Just One Life offers necessary support for Israeli women who struggling with a difficult pregnancy and in a good number of situations are considering terminating their pregnancies for either medical, emotional or financial reasons.
Since its founding in 1989, Just One Life has worked with more than 16,000 Israeli families and has played a role in the birth of more than 17,000 babies in Israel.
Just One Life senior social worker Chaya Katzin greets every woman who walks through the organization’s door. Katzin says that her work is humbling. Although she ultimately loves to meet her clients’ babies, she insists that her job is “to assist pregnant women in distress and to help them make the best and right decisions for them and their families.”
For Katzin and the rest of the staff, a happy baby born to one of her clients signifies a job well-done in helping a distressed woman complete her pregnancy in a healthy and positive way.
“Most of the women whom we meet want to continue their pregnancies and want to have their babies,” said Katzin. “We are there to help them meet that goal.”
She continued, “These women are pregnant, but they also struggle with a lot of other issues. They may be struggling with mental health issues, depression, bipolar disorder, abuse in the home, or any other medical issues.”
Just One Life seeks to address the issues facing their clients. The organization offers a full range of services including psychotherapy, counseling, financial aid, advocacy, home visits and group workshops.
The non-profit’s goal is two-tiered. The primary aim is to educate and empower pregnant women in crisis about their many options and choices. The secondary tier, which is more often than not a result of the first, is to help these women deliver healthy and thriving babies.
Abortions are legal in Israel so long as the pregnant woman is approved by a pregnancy termination panel. In 2017, 98.9% of cases brought before the 41 pregnancy termination panels across Israel were approved for applicants between the ages of 17 and 40.
Israeli lawmakers and pro-life activists estimate that some 15,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in Israel. This number is nearly identical to the number of legal abortions performed annually.
According to a Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, there has been a decline in the number of abortion requests by Jewish women since 2004. This is in part due to the supportive and empowering work of Just One Life.
There is no one set treatment for for every woman whom Katzin meets. Rather, specific therapies and treatments are customized by Just One Life staff based on the individual needs and challenges of each woman. Each of the tens of thousands of women who has been helped by the organization has her own story and unique set of circumstances.
Rina sought help from Just One Life after her doctors detected that the baby she was carrying had Trisomy 18. Babies born with this genetic disease often die just days after their birth. Despite the grim prognosis for her baby, Rina was adamant that she wanted to deliver her baby to term. But she knew she would need therapy and support to make it through her pregnancy. Just One Life was able to provide that.
Rina’s baby boy died just two weeks after his birth. Rina and her other children continued to receive therapy and counseling during their grief period and in the months following.
“When I hear a woman say that she feels better equipped to take care of herself and be a better mom, that makes me emotional,” said Katzin. “I believe that by helping the mom, I am helping the entire family because she can now take better care of her children and chart a better path into the future.”