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Israel & Abortion

Israel is home to some of the holiest sites for the three Abrahamic religions. Its lands hold stories that date back to biblical times. It’s not surprising that most people think of Israel as one of the most religious countries in the world. But many Israelis are largely modern Jews or secular. Our country’s commitment to a woman’s right to choose and its unyielding support of alternative families transcend religion. At a time when major countries are seemingly moving backward, Israel’s progressive record on women’s reproductive and familial rights should serve as the standard.

It is all about supporting the woman’s emotional and physical health and welfare.

Abortion in Israel is not only legal: the government fully funds it. When a woman considers receiving an abortion, she meets with a three-member support panel within a hospital to make sure she is not being coerced and has all the correct information about the procedure. At least one woman must be a part of this panel. 96% of all applicants are granted an abortion and the government fully pays for the procedure. Religion plays no part in the decision-making process. It is all about supporting the woman’s emotional and physical health and welfare.

At the same time that some countries are looking to restrict abortion, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz is working to make Israel’s system even more progressive. Horowitz is mobilizing to end the need for committee meetings altogether within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and prohibit all attempts to dissuade women from having abortions.

Not only has Israel pursued more progressive policies surrounding abortion, but it has also hit new milestones regarding in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, and alternative families. In many countries around the world, families trying to conceive incur tremendous debt from costly fertility treatments like IVF. Israel, in this regard, is one of the most generous countries in the world, providing women ages 18-45 with unlimited IVF treatments funded by the public health system. Women up to 54 years old can receive free treatments using donated eggs. With such a progressive IVF program, it is not surprising that Israeli women undergo more IVF cycles than women in any other country. 

And finally, Israel lifted all restrictions on the ability of same-sex couples and single men to become parents through surrogacy. This decision was monumental for the LGBTQ+ community. Societal and governmental acceptance of alternative families has made Israel one of the most inclusive countries in the world and the most tolerant nation in the Middle East. You probably didn’t know that Trans men can have their eggs frozen for free before transitioning.

Sadly, this is not the case everywhere. As Israel continues to improve access to abortion, the United States is moving in the opposite direction. On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the court case that guaranteed federal protection for women seeking abortions in all fifty states since 1973, throwing the United States into turmoil. This comes after about half of the fifty states have passed extremely restrictive abortion bans. Even before the ruling, in Mississippi for example, there is only one abortion clinic in the entire state, providing abortions only up to sixteen weeks. With the potential demise of Roe vs. Wade on the horizon, states like Mississippi have a finger on the trigger, ready to outlaw abortions outright, and Mississippi’s last clinic may have to leave the state.

RBG is rolling in her grave.

While the U.S. receives a litany of backlash against its assault on women’s rights, Israel stands alone in our region. While Tunisia and Turkey technically provide legal abortions, their laws are significantly more stringent. Throughout the rest of the region, abortions are not only illegal, but women’s rights are virtually nonexistent. Iran, a country with an egregious record on freedoms of all sorts, recently passed the “rejuvenation of the population and support of the family” bill. This Orwellian law adds even more restrictions on the already minimal availability of abortions, including the death penalty for woman who obtain one. If that wasn’t bad enough, the law outlaws sterilization and contraceptives in the public health care system. The goal is abundantly clear: to further perpetuate the stereotype that a woman’s only function in society is to bear children. Victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence are just collateral damage.

As a woman, it is terrifying to see my sisters around the world lose their bodily autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare. As someone who has watched my friends fight to grow their own alternative families and control the direction of their own lives, I believe all governments must provide legal safeguards to each and every individual. Constricting and revoking these rights is a slippery slope. Any assault on women’s reproductive rights is wrong, and we must not accept it. 

As many governments regress, I realize how lucky I am to be Israeli. When it comes to women’s reproductive rights, Israel is a shining example for all countries. To that end, I am committed to making my voice heard. I simply cannot be a bystander in a world in which individual rights are constantly up for debate. There has never been a more crucial time to stand up for women’s reproductive rights and families, whatever they may look like. We must remember the truth: though abortion is never an easy decision, every country owes its people bodily autonomy and the freedom to plan their families. No matter how long a society has existed and no matter how diverse the opinions of its populace are, we must follow Israel’s example. Only then can we create a progressive and inclusive society that reflects the best in all of us.

About the Author
Hallel Silverman is an American born, Israeli raised digital activist located in Tel Aviv. With nearly a decade in Israel Advocacy, Hallel has created and executed content for dozens of major organizations, and has been a leading voice online for progressive Zionism. She is an associate at the Tel Aviv Institute.
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