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Following an appeal to the Supreme Court, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Second TV and Radio Channel Authority have been ordered to air short ads for the Efrat anti-abortion organization.

Thus comes to an end a year-long legal battle over Efrat’s right to have its information disseminated to the public via the public airwaves.

Dr. Eli Shussheim, Chairman of Efrat, said, “The Supreme Court has now ruled that our activities to help women reach a decision only when they have all the facts cannot be prevented.”

The story began over a year ago, when Efrat signed a contract with many regional and national radio stations for their ads to be aired. The ads featured a woman saying, “The sorrow and regret I felt after my abortion accompany me every day. Had I known about Efrat beforehand, this wouldn’t have happened to me. So that it won’t happen to you as well, call Efrat – 02-653-6212.”

The ads ran serenely for a number of weeks, until known abortion-advocate MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) got wind of them. He called several stations and demanded they stop broadcasting them – and they did, informing Efrat that they had decided to unilaterally terminate the signed agreement.

Efrat then turned to the Supreme Court, which ordered the IBA and Second Channel Authority to find a mutually-acceptable text. The judges threatened that if an agreement was not reached, they would issue an injunction compelling them to air the original ad.

After months of negotiations, the following innocuous version was agreed upon: “You’re pregnant and considering an abortion? Call the Efrat Association – 02-653-6212. Discretion and responsibility.”

Efrat Explains
“We’re not anti-abortion,” Shussheim explains. “We want women to be informed, and we want to prevent abortions that are simply the result of a woman feeling she cannot afford to raise a child. Our motto is: Life is not terminated just for money. The Court ruled that it is our right to bring word of our existence to the female public.”

“We have dealt with tens of thousands of cases over the years,” Shussheim says, “and I have never met a woman who regrets not having had an abortion. On the other hand, I have met very very many who deeply regret that they did have one.”

Some 20,000 legal abortions - and another estimated 28,000 illegal ones - are performed in Israel each year, alongside 150,000 annual Jewish births. Ruth Tidhar, MSW, who heads Efrat’s team of close to 3,000 volunteers, says, “The number of abortions has remained steady for years, despite the rising number of births, and despite the absorption of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union where abortion is practically a form of birth control… That’s quite an achievement, and Efrat has a very important role in that.”

Two Bills Aborted
In the past three weeks, two abortion-related legislative bills have been turned down by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. One, by MK Nissim Ze’ev of Shas, would have banned all abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy, and the other, by the aforementioned MK Horowitz of Meretz, called for automatic legalization of all abortions.

At present, a Health Ministry committee must approve all abortion requests. Abortions of pregnancies resulting from incest or rape are automatically approved and are performed for free.

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