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Overview on Abortion in Israel

May 11, 2021 • By Sandy Shoshani

Overview on Abortion in Israel

Last week, I sat in the child welfare department with a young woman, now 33 weeks pregnant, who wants to give her baby up for adoption. This is a rare occurrence in Israel because adoption is not a popular concept here. When we speak to women about this option, they typically get angry and let us know that they’d prefer to abort. The boyfriend of the young woman would still prefer that she abort, saying “then I wouldn’t wonder where the baby is.”

At one point in the conversation, the social worker said, “Earlier on, you could have aborted. It’s your body and your choice.” A year prior, the young woman did have an abortion. She well knew the pain, shame and guilt of that ‘choice’. She told the social worker that she “couldn’t do that again, not to this baby, too.”

“Then I wouldn’t wonder where the baby is.”

“My body, my choice,” is commonly heard by proponents of abortion, calling themselves “prochoice”. Experience tells that us that a woman in crisis pregnancy feels that she has “no choice.” Threats that her husband will leave her, her boyfriend will not support her, her parents will kick her out of the house, an empty bank account, or a million other fears and problems cause her to panic  when she discovers her pregnancy.  Being in a crisis, unplanned pregnancy can be daunting when a woman feels alone and unsupported.

Every woman has the right to decide about her body and should use that right to protect herself from poor choices and heartbreaking situations.  Once pregnant, we are talking about two different individuals, the mother and the child. 

An unborn child (fetus) has his own set of DNA and gene pool from conception. He is a totally unique individual, created in the image of God and protected, nourished and nurtured in his mother’s womb, but not the same person as his mother. The unborn baby’s heart beats at 23 days after conception, at forty days brain waves can be detected, at eight weeks all of his body parts are in place.  After a terrible accident, “life” is determined according to heart beat and brain activity. Isn’t it logical to have the same standard for every person, even those in the womb? A beating heart indicates life. In the United States, several states have passed what is called the “Heart Beat Bill” which gives protection from abortion to unborn children whose heartbeat can be detected (usually five to six weeks after conception).

In 2019, Be’ad Chaim, Israel Prolife, sponsored a survey of two thousand Israeli women on the topic of abortion.  In response to the question, “When does the heart begin to beat?” 35% knew that the heart beats between three to four weeks; anther 35% responded that the heart beats between five to six weeks. This indicates that 70% knew that the baby’s heart is beating by six weeks, typically before an abortion is done.  In response to the second question, “When is the fetus considered a human being?” 37% said at conception, and 45% said when the heart starts beating. This indicated that 82% of respondents believe that the fetus is a human being typically BEFORE the woman would know that she’s pregnant and before she’d have a chance to abort. The third question clinched the crux of the Israeli dilemma regarding life issues: “Which right is more important: the right of the mother to abort or the right of the baby to live?” 60% chose the right of the mother to abort and only 40% said that the baby’s right to live has precedence. 

As the number of deaths due to the corona pandemic causes havoc socially and economically around the globe, the number of abortions takes a much higher toll. According to the World Health Organization, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. In Israel, every year there are approximately 40-50 thousand abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125 abortions day.  The womb, which should be the safest place for a baby, has also become the most dangerous place. More severe than the corona pandemic, is the moral pandemic taking the lives of millions of unborn children globally.  A baby, although created in the womb by God, is not of any value unless he is wanted . It has become the mother’s choice, by right of society’s laws, to allow the baby’s life to be discarded if he is unwanted. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20.

Many people are surprised to learn that Israel, called by God to be a Holy nation unto Him, not only allows abortion, but finances abortions through our National Health insurance program. Each year, approximately half of the abortions are done at the expense of the Israeli government and tax payers’ money. When a nation finances abortion, and the law permits abortion, individuals feel that it is an acceptable, normal medical procedure. Our people, as a Nation, bear the onus of the shedding of innocent blood on our Land.

In Israel, a land of paradoxes, abortion is widely available, yet legally restricted. In order to have a legal, government funded and registered abortion, a woman must apply to the termination of pregnancy committee which exists in nearly every hospital. 98.5% of applications for abortion are approved.  Shockingly, a woman may terminate her pregnancy up to full gestation. Minors do not require parental consent and measures are taken to insure their privacy. This is in part related to the possibility of life threatening situations for single pregnant women in the Moslem sector. Last year, the state paid for approximately 18,000 abortions, regardless of circumstances.  It is estimated that half of the 40,000 annual abortions are not registered and not through committees, making them illegal, although doctors are not prosecuted.  The criteria to have a legal abortion are quite ‘open’ : (1) under-18 or over-40; (2) pregnant as a result of criminal, extra-marital, or incestuous relations; (3) fetus likely to have a physical or mental defect; or (4) continuation of the pregnancy is likely to endanger the woman’s life or cause her physical or mental harm ( including stress and insomnia). She must also receive permission from a three-person termination committee, consisting of two doctors and a social worker, one of whom must be a woman.  98.5% of applications for abortion are approved, making the committees a sort of “rubber stamp.”

In the 1940’s , in pre-Israel Palestine, and primarily due to  financial instability,  abortion was the common form of birth control and so rampant that our first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said, , to increase demographics and to encourage birth created a government financial incentive  support program of children. In recent years, this funding has been cut back significantly. That being said, the birth rate in Israel is one of the highest in the Western world, 3.1 per family.   On the other hand, the high rate of abortion in Israel exemplifies the paradox between the high value placed on the family and bearing children and the permissiveness of our society.  Religious families have very large families as they obey the Biblical command “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Many families want more than one child as a sort of “insurance policy” against losing a child in the army or through terrorism. On a national level there is a mindfulness of the need to rebuild the Jewish people after the loss of six million during the Holocaust. Abortion is the antithesis of this equation for while the lives of 1.5 million Jewish children were lost in the Holocaust, at least 2 million have been lost to abortion since 1948. 

“If our mothers had aborted at the same rate as our daughters, we wouldn’t have been  able to build a nation.”  Ben Gurion

Many rabbis have expressed how appalled they are by these statistics, yet none of our religious parties have taken a stand to protect the rights of the unborn. There is no voice in our government speaking for the unborn.  There is a large variance in opinion among rabbis regarding abortion with many allowed abortion prior to 40 days after conception. The Talmudic principle that a mother’s life takes priority over the baby’s life is often the guideline for orthodox rabbis to permit a mother to choice abortion; for example ,  if it would ‘harm her life’ such as reducing the possibility of finding a husband or cause her stress and anxiety.

There are several prolife organizations in Israel, some of them led by orthodox Jews and others by Messianic Jews.  Each organization has its own emphasis and thankfully saves lives and in various sectors of society. 

In the early 1980’s, Christians and Messianic Jews came together to take on the task of saving babies from abortion in Israel.  After research, it was discovered that one out of three pregnancies was being aborted, which is the same proportion of world Jewry that Hitler annihilated. Be’ad Chaim became an official Israel nonprofit organization in 1988. The goal of Be’ad Chaim is to protect the mother and child from the ravages of abortion.  A solid prayer base was created as the foundation of the work of Be’ad Chaim. Prayer continues to be the strength of our work, with weekly prayer letters going out to over 850 locations around the globe.

 In 2005, I was asked to join as director and declined the invitation. Meeting with the Chairman of the Board, Tony Sperandeo and first director, Ted Walker, I was asked why I didn’t want the position. Simply stated, I believed that there were many things wrong in Israeli society, abortion being just one of them and not my interest. Tony asked, “Do you care about Israel? If you do – you need to do something about the shedding of innocent blood on our Land.” He quoted Genesis 4 : 9,10: And the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I do not know!” he answered. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” What have you done?” replied the Lord. “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”

Tony explained that the blood of Israeli babies is crying out on our Land.  The shedding of blood caused the exile of our people from the Land  to Babylon in 586BC as expounded in Psalm 106 :38 “They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.”   Tony’s words ring in my ears to this day, “There is nothing that God hates more than the shedding of innocent blood.”

I was sent home with a pile of books on abortion, articles with the statistics and videos to watch. During the month until my next interview, I studied and prayed. Proverbs 24:11, 12 provoked me and troubled me deeply: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? “
  I could not say that I didn’t know that babies’ lives were being taken because I had learned the facts. I perceived myself with the option of being like an ostrich. When an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it. As a follower of the Messiah, I don’t believe that we have the option of doing nothing when we see injustice. “For evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” (Pastor Charles Aked).  Proverbs 31 commands us: ”Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. “  As I read the Scriptures, I see that God calls us to challenge the status quo of a society that doesn’t value His values. Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ( Matthew 5)  We are called to mourn for that which grieves the heart of God.  In  Ezekiel 9:4, God calls the cherub to:  “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem,” said the LORD, “and put a mark on the foreheads of the men sighing and groaning over all the abominations committed there.”

I have met many women in crisis over the years. I will never forget a young soldier who visited our Jerusalem office.  Doing a pregnancy test, she discovered that it was positive and ran out of the office deeply shaken. I later saw her at the Central bus station and gently asked to speak with her, inquiring if she were still pregnant. She said, “yes, but I am going to have an abortion.” She cited all of the reasons why abortion was her only option. I offered her support and help in every possible way, but she was adamant. As I began to walk away, the soldier called me back and asked me a simple question, “Why am I feeling so tired and hungry ? Instinctively, I responded, “Your mind and your heart don’t want this baby, but your body is nourishing and feeding the baby.” At this, right there outside of the Central Bus station, her knees buckled and she fell to the ground sobbing. I later learned that she had a free abortion through the health care offered through the army.  The IDF, as part of general medical coverage for soldiers, will pay for two –three abortions during a woman’s two year service.  It is a woman’s instinct to care for her baby, but problems and pressure cause her to choose to terminate the baby’s life.

“Your mind and your heart don’t want this baby, but your body is nourishing and feeding the baby.”

Be’ad Chaim’s goal is to protect the mother and child from the ravages of abortion. We believe that abortion takes the life of a child, hurts women, and damages society.  At Be’ad Chaim, we see hundreds of hurting, needy women in crisis. Many of them have been rejected by families and partners; many have broken hearts and need the love of God to heal and sooth their pain.  We don’t believe that it’s our job to condemn or to push people to choose life; rather it’s our responsibility and privilege to love them and offer them the hope that will empower them to choose life.

Our help to women has three aspects: HOPE, HELP AND HEALING. Through our hotline and website, we offer immediate help in crisis. Women are offered firstly a listening ear and information that will help them make a considered decision about their lives and the life of their baby. They are connected with a caring counselor in 12 different cities and regions of Israel.  Counselors are trained to respect and tenderly communicate compassion with the women in crisis. These counselors often become a precious friend to a hurting and confused woman.  Practical help is offered to each woman with financial difficulties through our baby sponsorship program “Operation Moses”, providing them with baby bed, stroller, bathtub, and monthly vouchers to purchase baby necessities.  Several centers have a “baby boutique” where mothers can come and choose clothing and other items for their newborns and up to one year. 

Reproductive loss counseling is offered to those who hurt after the loss of a baby through miscarriage, abortion or still birth. All too often, women are told to ‘forget about ‘the loss of the baby, but mothers, and fathers, need the space to heal after a loss. Grief, guilt and pain need to be addressed and processed. Our survey, showed some very serious consequences to abortive women. For example, after their abortion, 25 % were severely traumatized, 18% were very traumatized and 22% were moderately traumatized.  When asked if there were medical problems after the abortion, 73% said “yes”. 11% experienced miscarriage and 8% were never able to conceive another child.  To honor the unborn children, The Gardens of Life is a four acre ( 16 dunam) forest in the center of Israel where trees are planted in memory of unborn children or children who have passed away. These Gardens have brought healing and closure to thousands of people who have lost a baby, including parents, grandparents, siblings and others who grieve the loss. 

We must beware of seeing abortion as merely a political issue, something philosophical and theoretical.  To be  prolife means caring about the lives of women, their children and their families;  caring about a healthy society that values and sees God-given destiny  for every individual even the smallest ones in the womb.

Let us pray and work for the day when Israel will choose life so that God will abundantly bless us with His peace in this Land :  

"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Deuteronomy 30:19-20