The Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee approved Monday new reforms aimed at easing access to abortions for women.
The new regulations, which are set to take effect in three months, will relax the procedures for those seeking medical abortions up until the 12th week of pregnancy and scrap a requirement to appear in person before a pregnancy termination board.
Other changes include a revision to a form required before appearing before the committee and the removal of questions deemed by some as too sensitive and inappropriate. Women will also have an option to fill out the questionnaire online.
Despite protests from women's rights groups, pregnancy termination committees — which have the final say on whether to approve the procedure — will not be abolished as such a move would require a change in legislation which is likely to encounter opposition from conservative elements in the Knesset.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who sponsored the reform, welcomed the move while taking a swipe at the U.S. Supreme Court after it overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that protected a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion.
“This is a no-brainer, the right over a woman’s body is her own. Every decision about a medical procedure like terminating a pregnancy must respect this basic principle," he said.
"The U.S. Supreme Court's move to revoke a woman’s right over her own body is a benighted one. It is repression of women and going back a century. Israel’s situation isn’t ideal either, but we’re in a completely different place. We make moves in the right direction, contrary to the U.S., to safeguard a woman’s basic right over her own body.”
Haggai Goldschmidt, chairman of pro-life group EFRAT — which provides information, emotional support and financial assistance to women seeking an abortion in a bid to dissuade them from undergoing the procedure, lamented the move and called on the Health Ministry to also present other alternatives to women beside terminating a pregnancy.
“When a woman chooses to have an abortion nowadays, she doesn’t do so out of an informed mind. We've treated 81,000 women who probably think otherwise. The Health Ministry should present women with the different options," he said.
"Second, she 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.”
According to Health Ministry data, 17,548 women applied to terminate a pregnancy in 2021 and 74% of abortions were done by the ninth week of pregnancy.