Strident responses after chief rabbis announce they will act to reduce number of abortions in Israel: Following the publication of the rabbis' open letter on Ynet, New Family, an organization dedicated to advancing women's rights, appealed Tuesday to members of Knesset, demanding that the committees for pregnancy termination be abolished and that hospitals be authorized to take abortion decisions instead.
The appeal is a response to what was described as "the rabbis' brutal intervention in women's wombs." At the same time, Knesset Member Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) requested an urgent discussion on the issue in the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women.
In her appeal to MKs, New Family founder and chairperson Adv. Irit Rosenblum wrote, "It appears that your response is required to prevent the public intervention of the chief rabbis in an issue which is entirely private and personal, and which also touches on women's right to control their own bodies."
According to Rosenblum, "This is a brutal incursion into the right to privacy, even a debasement of women's dignity and status, as she is apparently not permitted to have an opinion regarding her own body or her own offspring. Women's wombs are not the property of the rabbis or anyone else, and the rabbis don't own human morality either."
Rosenblum, who in recent years has been active in attempts to abolish the committees for pregnancy termination, said that various factors and the emotional stress undergone by those seeking abortion – now increased by representatives of religion – causes many women to "go around" the committees and seek an illegal abortion. "In the 21st century there should be no place for the response of religious leaders or for any other kind of intervention," she wrote.
Rosenblum continued to criticize the rabbis, asserting: "This behavior casts doubt not only on a woman's right to decide on matters relating to her own body, but also on her mental capabilities, her honesty and her needs. This is a decision coming straight from the Bet Midrash regarding the cleanliness of men… It is another stage in the ominous developments taking place in Israeli society."
A Knesset discussion?
The rabbis' letter caused MK Zuaretz to request an urgent discussion on the issue from MK Tzipi Hotoveli (Likud), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women.
"It's not abortions that are delaying the Redemption, but the chief rabbis," Zuaretz said. "They are undermining women's dignity and their right to decide on matters relating to their own bodies and their own fate – which is entirely unconnected to the fate of the Jewish people. Making this connection is dangerous, especially when it is expressed by influential people in positions of authority who receive a salary from the State."
"The chief rabbis are trying to reignite religious conflicts which have already been sufficiently settled in Israeli law," said Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Religious Action Center.
"Attempts to take advantage of their monopoly on the issue of marriage in order to impose their religious opinions are neither desirable nor legal. Judaism's approach to abortion is complex and has come a long way from the positions espoused by the chief rabbinate, which in recent years has become a Shofar trumpeting the most extreme Haredi positions."