Labor and Welfare Committee eases process to terminate a pregnancy

On Tuesday, June 27th, 2022, the Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee took steps to make the termination of a pregnancy more accessible to the Israeli public. Medical abortions will now be permitted within the clinics operated by publicly-funded health maintenance organizations (HMOs), as opposed to only being allowed in a hospital. In addition, a woman seeking legal approval for an abortion from the three-member panel mandated by a 1977 law will no longer have to appear before the panel in person, and the form to request approval will be altered.

Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) spoke about updating the bureaucratic process of terminating a pregnancy, which has been largely untouched since the 1970s:

In the four decades that have passed, and in light of the changes in professional, legal, and technological-medical approaches, we feel the need to update a number of directives, including allowing medical abortions at public clinics within the community, improving the process vis-a-vis those who petition the pregnancy termination panels, updating the forms in use, and allowing digital submission of requests and digital retention of all of the documents. It is obvious that a woman has rights over her own body, and every decision on the matter must respect this basic principle. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on this issue is unenlightened and rolls the wheel back 100 years. The practices of the Ministry of Health to this point were chauvinist and degrading, and were meant to encourage women not to have abortions. Our proposal is to remove degrading questions, to cancel physical appearance before a panel, and to allow abortions in the HMOs.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) questioned the timing of these administrative changes as the Knesset is in the process of dissolution.

MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas) asked about the rabbinic authority with which the proponents of the changes may have consulted.

The decision was praised in the meeting by MKs Gaby Lasky (Meretz), Michal Rozin (Meretz), and Shirly Pinto Kadosh (Yamina).

MK Rozin tweeted from within the meeting:

In the discussion about changing the regulations of the Minister of Health regarding pregnancy termination committees. The change will help women who are forced into this complicated situation with the bureaucracy of pregnancy termination panels. No woman takes the decisions to have an abortion lightly – it is a difficult decision with physical and emotional trauma, and we must do all that we can to make things easier for women who find themselves in this situation. 

MK Lasky later tweeted after final approval of the update regulations:

What great excitement! Today, Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz, my friend MK Michal Rozin, and I changed the regulations of the Ministry of Health regarding abortions. No more degrading questions, and the requirement to appear before the committee was voided. Despite the bad winds blowing in the United States, we are strengthening a woman’s right over her body. We have created a process that is respectful and more accessible to all.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Religious Zionism) spoke about the issue in an interview on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio):

I am disturbed, because these committees are very lenient – approve, approve, approve. Of course a woman has rights over her own body, but we must remember that there is something else, a fetus that is growing, and we cannot ignore it.

Minister of Health Horowitz tweeted upon signing the updated regulations on Wednesday:

I just signed the new regulations regarding abortion, after the received final approval in the Knesset’s Health Committee. My goal: For Israel to be one of the world leaders in access and equality in healthcare, for every person.