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Israel Health & Medicine:
Legal Terms of Abortion

by Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz

Health & Medicine: Table of Contents | General Overview | Abortion Statistics

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A 1977 law ensures a low-cost, and in some cases free, legal abortion to any woman who fills one of four criteria:

  • She is under 18 or over 40 (cost to those in between: 1,500 shekels [$370]).
  • She is carrying a fetus with a serious mental or physical defect (free).
  • She claims that the fetus results from forbidden relations such as rape or incest (free) or, in the case of a married woman, that the baby is not her husband's (not free). Single women also fall under this clause, and they too must pay.
  • She shows that by continuing the pregnancy, her physical or mental health would be damaged (free).

In 1980, a fifth criterion that allowed abortions for women living in economic hardship was abolished due to pressure from religious political parties.

A woman who seeks to terminate a pregnancy must appear before one of the 41 abortion committees operating in public and private hospitals around the country. These committees include three members — a physician whose field of expertise is obstetrics and gynecology; another physician who is either a family doctor, psychiatrist, internist or gynecologist, and a social worker. At least one woman must be present on each committee.

Six separate committees consider requests for termination when a fetus is beyond 24 weeks old. No hospitals in Jerusalem, however, will perform these abortions.

In 2012, 21,104 applications for termination of pregnancy - out of 21,689 (97%)- were approved. 20,063 pregnancies were actually terminated, approximately 10% of all known pregnancies in Israel. In addition, it is likely that more than 10,000 abortions were illegally performed in private doctors' clinics.

Sources: United Nations Abortion Policies: A Global Review, Jerusalem Report, (February 12, 2001), Jerusalem Post

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