An initiative of two Knesset members from both the coalition and the opposition would add clerics to the termination committee from which a woman seeking to end her pregnancy must attain approval.
On Monday, the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality will consider the subject "the need to add clerics to the termination committee." The matter was submitted recently by two different MKs—Rabbi Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Joint List)—in separate applications for a "rapid debate."
Under current regulations from the Ministry of Health, committees that are legally required for a woman to attain permission to have an abortion performed comprise three members: a gynecologist, another doctor and a social worker. At least one of the three must be a woman.
A "rapid debate" is a process in which MKs ask for a certain committee to discuss a given issue. This is usually done in preparation for a bill to be submitted on that same subject. Hajj Yahya confirmed that this is indeed his intention.
Glick's application for the debate, which he submitted to the speaker of the Knesset, reads in part, "It is very important that in addition to the professionals, a cleric relevant to the religion of the applicant be present in the committee."
Hajj Yahya wrote in his own application that he was concerned by the rise in the abortion rate amongst Arab women. He detailed, "There is an increase in the number of Muslim, Druze and Arab-Christian women who go to the termination committee, while there is a decrease amongst Jewish women."
Speaking with Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet's sister publication, Glick explained that it was Hajj Yahya who approached him presenting that data and who convinced him of the need to add a cleric to the committees. Hajj Yahya asked him to submit an application to add a rabbi for cases when the woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy is Jewish.
Glick claimed, "There's been an increase in apportions, and we understand that there's also a desire of women to have a rabbi or sheikh present in the committee to express a religious position. My goal is to prevent abortions when they're not necessary. Abortion is not a triviality—it's the process of almost taking a life. If there's a trend of trigger-happiness, and the termination committee issues approvals left and right, it needs to be restricted."
He further alleged, "The presence of a cleric on the committee may in some cases actually make it easier for women to have an abortion. In the case where the abortion is permitted according to the woman's religion, it's desirable that a cleric should make it clear to her so that she'll feel religious backing."
Asked if the rabbinic establishment in Israel might take advantage of his proposed situation to significantly restrict abortions, Glick replied, "I promise to come to the committee with an open mind and to listen to all the positions, and I'll decide my position based on that."
Regarding Sharia's stance on abortion, Hajj Yahya explained in his application, "If the abortion is performed when the gestational age is more than 120 days, than it is tantamount to killing."
Running counter to Hajj Yahya and Glick's proposal is a draft bill being finalized by their colleague, MK Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), that seeks to ease the criteria for receiving approval from the termination committee at the earlier stages of pregnancy.
She was extremely critical both of the current status of abortions in Israel and her fellow parliamentarians' intentions, saying, "The existing legal situation is already trampling on the fundamental right of a woman to take decisions about her body. Amazingly, MKs Glick and Hajj Yahya are seeking to add insult to injury and add a cleric to the committee, as if it were their bodies being discussed.
"It baffles me that somebody without the tools and the ability to understand the significance of carrying an unwanted pregnancy is seeking to apply additional strictures."