Photo: Zoom 77
Zeev: Murder, not abortion
Photo: Zoom 77
Gal-On: Current law descriminates
Photo: Dudi Vaknin

Religious party proposes outlawing abortions after 22nd week

Knesset to vote on Shas bill proposal to amend current abortion law, outlaw terminations towards end of second trimester. MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) slams bill as offense to women's rights, says

A new bill proposal authored by MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) may dramatically change standing abortion laws in Israel. If ratified, Zeev's bill would outlaw the termination of a pregnancy after its 22nd week. Ending a pregnancy towards the end of the second trimester, Zeev said, is akin to murder. Less than a tenth of all abortions in Israel are carried out after the 22nd week.


Abortions are Israel must be approved by a special committee but are often automatically authorized if the pregnant woman is younger than 17 years of age or older than 40, if the conception was a result of rape, incest or extramarital relations, if the pregnancy is likely to endanger the mother's physical or mental wellbeing or if the fetus has been diagnosed with a possible birth defect.


Zeev's bill proposes that the aforementioned criteria should not apply to termination requests after the 22nd week of pregnancy. A woman seeking an abortion at any point past that point would only be granted one if the pregnancy puts her life at risk and must be approved by two physicians.


"At 22 weeks, the fetus is alive. Terminating the pregnancy at that point constitutes murder and not an 'abortion'," Zeev said. "It is an unfounded claim that limiting abortions interferes with a woman's freedom and right over her own body," Zeev continued, "we are talking about granting life."


The current law, said Zeev, allows the abortion committee "almost unfettered authority to end the life of a fetus, in regards to both the reason for the abortion and the age of the fetus. At this point, it's possible to abort a fetus at any stage of the pregnancy and this goes against what is acceptable in all developed countries."


Zeev said that his proposal "aims to put an end to the existing lack of restrictions on abortions and only make it about incidents in which continuing the pregnancy poses a danger to the woman's wellbeing."


Opposing bill calls for end to 'humiliating abortion committees'

Meanwhile MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) proposed cancelling the law requiring women to seek permission from an abortion committee before undergoing the procedure.


"This has created an unacceptable situation wherein women of means go to private clinics and undergo illegal abortions while underprivileged women are forced to go through this humiliating ordeal of standing in front of this committee and pleading for an abortion."


Gal-On claims that the current law "discriminates on the basis of social class between the haves and have-nots. It is not right that in a proper, democratic country a governmental committee can deny a woman her basic right to decide what to do with her own body."


Gal-On's proposal failed to pass its preliminary Knesset reading some six months ago. She resubmitted the bill for approval in mid-November.


Expert: Both sides going too far

As Chairman of the Union of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor Eliezer Shalev is opposed to Zeev's bill that would prohibit abortions after the 22nd week. "We need to leave an option for special circumstances," he said. "There is no reason that a woman should continue for another 20 weeks of pregnancy if she bears a fetus without a brain, for example, or a fetus that will not survive…"


Nevertheless, Professor Shalev agrees that the current situation in Israel regarding abortions is lenient to the extreme. "Today there is a lenient approach to late abortions in non-extenuating circumstances. This permissive attitude is an aberration in comparison to other countries. Israelis fear abnormalities and allow abortions even for defects with which it is possible to live. I dislike the exaggerated things (I hear) from both sides," he said.


Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 12.03.07, 19:27
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