Gender Equality

SDG 5- Reproductive Rights Reform

Just before all the noise surrounding the recent fall of Israel’s government, something no less ground breaking occurred: the Health Minister – who from the beginning has been publicly clear that “the rights to a woman’s body are those of the woman alone” – followed through with his December promise and pushed reproductive rights reform over the top after more than 30 years of bureaucratic stagnation. Chapeau!

“The reform we approved today will create a simpler process that is more respectful, advanced, and maintains a woman’s right to make decisions over her own body – a basic human right,” the Minister said.

As reported here, his reform proposal overcame its final hurdle when the Labor, Welfare and Health committee of the Knesset (parliament) approved the new regulations. The two main changes in the reform, which will take effect in September: access to drug-induced, early-term abortions will be extended from hospitals to all the health maintenance organizations, which are widespread throughout the country; women will no longer be required to physically face an approval committee, rather will have access to a digitized application process.

Reproductive Rights Reform - SDG 5 - Social Impact Israel
@Hadas Parush/Flash90

A word about the approval committee issue is in order. Here’s the thing: in Israel’s current political makeup – which cannot be expected to change anytime soon, if at all – cancellation of the committee prerequisite is contingent on legislation, whose chances of passing are somewhere between slim and non-existent. Recognizing this, the Minister took the best available course of action as necessitated by what he witnessed on the ground.

“There were some really intimate and irrelevant questions,” he said, reflecting on his experience monitoring the committees’ work. “These were written in a chauvinistic and outdated manner that suggests a woman’s rights are not relevant.”

Of course, as rightly pointed out by “Haaretz” “This is not the amending of a law or the changing of basic principles. The concept remains the same: Every pregnancy is to be carried to term unless it meets one of the criteria set by the state. An abortion still needs the approval of a hospital-based committee of two doctors and a social worker.”

Having said that, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority – estimated at around 96% – of applications in Israel have been approved to date, even before the new reform.

As the “Haaretz” piece emphasizes, the new reform will positively affect literally “thousands” of Israeli women a year, since “most abortions in Israel happen during the first weeks of pregnancy” (according to the report, 6,734 drug-induced abortions were performed in 2020 – 55 percent of all abortions until the ninth week of pregnancy).

As we have said many times before, Israel isn’t perfect – no country is. What distinguishes it, among a unique group of like-minded states, is its tenacity in identifying injustices and determination in trying to rectify them.  In this context, we applaud the Government for strengthening Israeli women’s rights over their own bodies. Well deserved.

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