Israel on Monday eased its regulations on abortion access in what the country’s health minister said was a response to last week’s “sad” U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
The new rules, approved by a parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the country’s universal health system and remove a longstanding requirement that women appear physically before a special committee before they are permitted to terminate a pregnancy.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who heads the small liberal Meretz party, said the U.S. decision had turned back the clock for women’s rights. “A woman has a complete right over her body,” he said. “The SCOTUS decision to negate a woman’s right to make a choice over her own body is a sad process of women’s repression, setting the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years back.”
Under the new rules, Israeli women will now have access to abortion pills at their local health clinics. They also will no longer need to physically appear before an abortion approval committee, and the application form will be shortened and simplified. Instead, the process will be digitized, and a requirement to meet with a social worker will become optional. The new regulations are set to take effect in three months.
Chagai Goldschmidt, the chairman of the pro-life group Efrat, which provides assistance and information to women seeking abortions, slammed the move.
“When a woman chooses to have an abortion nowadays, she doesn’t do so out of an informed mind,” he said. “We’ve treated 81,000 women who think otherwise. The Health Ministry should present women with the various options. Secondly, women should be given 72 hours to think things over. After the [pregnancy termination] committee, there’s nothing. She’s immediately transferred to the next room.”
Dr. Yonatan Schussheim, the head of Efrat’s medical department, told Arutz Sheva that even prior to the new laws, “the committees had become a rubber stamp in which more than 99% of referrals are approved,” and that in reality there’s almost no situation in which a woman seeks an abortion and it isn’t approved.
Yonatan’s father, Dr. Eli Schussheim, z’l, the founder of Efrat, would recount at every opportunity the many babies his organization saved solely by supporting the mother, without any coercion. “When he talked about the children born to him, he was not talking about me and my siblings but about the tens of thousands of children and children born thanks to Efrat,” Yonatan said. “We met most of them during the year at various events where they came to us and said: ‘You should know that we were born in the zechus of your father.’ And those children are now bringing more children and families into the world.”
Dr. Eli Schussheim, z’l, who passed away in 2021, saved at least 80,000 babies during his years at Efrat. According to an Arutz Sheva report at the time, he founded Efrat after an encounter with a woman that changed his life. A woman brought her 8-year-old son to his medical clinic for stitches and said: “You know, this child isn’t mine – he’s yours!”
The mother explained that she had been advised by her doctor to terminate her pregnancy with her son because she had undergone X-rays before realizing she was pregnant.
“I came to you for a consultation, and you told me that my doctor’s warning was based on outdated facts,” she told Dr. Schussheim. “Because of you, I decided to continue my pregnancy and gave birth to my son, who, as you can see, is healthy, Baruch Hashem.”
Dr. Schussheim was stunned. “I had studied medicine to save lives and protect life. Here I saw how a simple consultation could save a child. When you save one child, you are saving all his future generations,” he would state.
“Each year, 60,000 abortions were being performed in Israel. That was the biggest loss of life in the country – more than wars and car accidents — yet the state wasn’t doing anything to stop it,” said Dr. Schussheim. “It was then that I committed myself to this as my life’s work.”
All of Dr. Schussheim’s many years of work for the cause was done on on a completely voluntary basis and he traveled throughout the world to raise awareness about saving Jewish lives.
Watch a 2017 interview with Dr. Schussheim, z’tl, below:
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)