Israeli women aged 20-33 will be able to receive abortions funded by the state for non-medical reasons beginning in 2014. This change is brought about through the recommendations of a Health Ministry commission.
Over the last three months, the commission, headed by Professor Yonatan Halevi, has researched over 650 medicines and technologies to be included in a newly expanded list of state subsidized treatments at a worth of NIS 300 million ($86 million). In total, 83 new items were added to the list and covers 115,000 patients.
Up until now, abortions for medical reasons or for girls under the age of 18 are paid for by the state of Israel. All other women must pay for private abortions at a cost of NIS 5,000-6,000 ($1,500-$1,750). The committee recommendations would still require women who seek an abortion to receive approval from a government panel and is estimated to cost NIS 2,484 ($714) per patient. Without the consent of the panel, which has an approval rate of 98%, the abortion is considered illegal. Less than 10% of abortions in Israel are carried out after the 22nd week with some 20,000 legal abortions taking place each year in Israeli public hospitals.
Critics of this new proposal have voiced their concerns that the new law would cause the abortion rate in Israel to increase dramatically. Dr. Eli Schussheim, chairman of “Efrat”, a pro life NGO, told Arutz7: “They are stealing 16 million shekels ($4.6 million) from sick people whose medicine saves and improves lives, and giving the money instead as a prize to 6,000 negligent women who didn’t prevent the pregnancy they didn’t want.”
Israel does not have an active anti-abortion movement. The lack of an active pro-life movement makes the work Efrat does even more important. A group of dedicated volunteers and professionals have allowed Efrat to educate women on their options and save the lives of over 50,000 children. According to Israel’s penal code, an illegal abortion carries a prison sentence of up to five years. The law states broad circumstances under which an abortion is allowed, including if a woman is younger than 17 or older than 40, if the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother’s physical and mental status, if conception was a result of rape, or if the fetus has been diagnosed with life altering birth defects.
The organizational efforts of Efrat will increase intensely in light of this newly subsidized “health treatment”. “This is happening in the state of Israel 70 years after the Jewish people lost nearly 7 million Jews” said Schussheim. “Women want to give birth but aren’t in a position to do so. We must help them. Every day we lose 110 children, and no one objects.”