Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (r.) with Prof. Nachman Ash
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (r.) with Prof. Nachman Ash Tomer Neuberg, Flash90

Controversial abortion reform currently being promoted by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has been lambasted by the "Lilach" organization which runs centers that provide assistance to pregnant women. According to Lilach, Horowitz is seeking to reap political dividends at the expense of women's health. Lee Uziya, director of Lilach's hotline, explained the reason for her organization's opposition in an interview with Israel National News.

"The reform aims to abolish the committees that women must appear before in order to have a first-trimester abortion approved, and transfer the issue to the health funds," she explains. "The idea is apparently to save money as the two doctors and one social worker on the committees will no longer be needed. But the reform does nothing to address the 'elephant in the room,' which is the question of why so many women request abortions. There are tens of thousands every year in Israel."

According to Uziya, the committees make no effort to discover the reasons why women request abortions and fail to provide help for applicants in dealing with the surrounding issues. "These committees do not address women's needs, nor do they provide any information on the actual abortion process or its aftermath. For various reasons, women often come under pressure to have an abortion, sometimes from a partner, at other times from family members, or from employers or colleagues. This is actually a common scenario, when a woman who becomes pregnant feels pressure from her workplace to have an abortion."

Uziya stresses that many women who approach Lilach do not want to have an abortion, but pressure, even if indirect, pushes them to apply to a committee and ask for permission, which is readily given without question. She describes one case in which "a married woman with two children - an educated woman with a career - went to a private doctor with her husband and had an abortion, not because someone told her to, but out of fear of the reaction at her new job."

In such a situation, Uziya says, Lilach's volunteers inform the woman of her legal rights and sometimes that is enough to make her rethink her decision and strengthen her resolve to keep the pregnancy.

Making it easier to get approval for an abortion will only increase the pressure on women to terminate their pregnancies, stresses Uziya, leaving countless women regretting a life-changing decision and wondering if they could have avoided taking such drastic action.