As the U.S. Supreme Court continues to wrestle with the issue of Roe v. Wade, Israel’s High Court postponed a decision regarding its abortion laws until mid-July. The decision, which pro-life advocates hope will help to reduce abortions in the Jewish State, was originally scheduled to be handed down this week. It's the second time the decision has been postponed.
Israel is one of the few countries in the world that allows abortion up until birth. An estimated one in five pregnancies are terminated each year, with the government funding most abortions each year.
Sandy Shoshani, Director of Be’ad Chaim, an Israeli pro-life organization, together with a private citizen are petitioning Israel’s High Court to stop abortion after the 24th week.
“We recognize the 24-week-old fetus (baby) as a person who can survive out of the womb – [a] viable human being,” Shoshani told CBN News. “In Israel, they will save a baby only from 24 weeks and not before.”
There is no comprehensive law in Israel that deals with abortion. Abortion is prohibited unless a woman has obtained permission from a special medical committee. Carrying out an abortion without the permission is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The criteria upon which the committee makes its decisions includes: whether the woman is below the age of marriage or over 40; pregnancy is the result of a relationship prohibited by law (like rape); the pregnancy resulted from incest or was outside of marriage; whether the child may have a mental or physical disability; or if continuing the pregnancy could pose mental or physical harm or endanger the woman’s life.
But in practice it is not difficult for a woman to get an abortion. “They give consent to 99.2% of requests,” Shoshani said.
According to Shoshani, official statistics list about 18,000 abortions a year, but she estimates it could be double that with unregistered abortions.
Most abortions here occur before that 24th week but changing the law would have an impact, she said.
Founded in 1988, Be’ad Chaim aims “to end abortion and to preserve life in Israel by offering viable alternatives to abortion, resources for mothers in need, pregnancy counseling, as well as education initiatives,” the website states.
Shoshani says since she became director in 2005, the organization has saved the lives of more than 4,000 babies, through a program they call “Operation Moses.” That provides everything a mother needs for her baby’s first year, including furniture, stroller, and formula.
She said that “sadly,” unlike in the US, abortion is not really a public issue here in Israel.
In the meantime, Shoshani asks that people pray that “the courts recognize the personhood of the baby in the womb, at least from the point of viability [at] 24 weeks.”
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