By Dave Andrusko
I claim zero expertise on the status of abortion in Israel but the uproar over what seems to the outsider to be a very mild amendment to the “status quo” is worth pondering. That was not how opponents saw the proposal. Bare in mind that under the 1977 abortion law, requests for abortions are “almost automatic” in Israel.
According to Allison Kaplan Sommer, the current law “offers the semblance of regulation for those conservatives who want abortion to be discouraged, while in reality almost any woman who wants an abortion is able to obtain one – and an estimated 40,000 Israelis obtain them every year.”
On Monday, two lawmakers – Yehuda Glick, an Orthodox Jew, and Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya, an observant Muslim–“dared raise the idea of including a member of the clergy (a rabbi or an Islamic ‘qadi,’ responsible for interpreting Islamic Sharia law) on the state committees that Israeli women seeking abortions must consult before obtaining one. ”
The response was “explosive,” Sommer wrote.
Simply the news that the idea was being discussed by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women sparked a furious backlash. As soon as word got out about the hearing, a female cry swept across Hebrew social media to “keep the rabbis out of our uterus!”
In a preemptive strike, numerous Knesset members came out strongly against it on their Facebook pages even before the Knesset panel met. The very idea was “dangerous and scandalous,” wrote Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon, who spearheaded opposition to the proposal. The very existence of the abortion panels, which she called a “black, shameful stain on Israeli society,” was bad enough. But to insert the clergy into an already “humiliating” process was intolerable, she added.
Sommer wrote that prior to Monday’s Knesset hearing, Glick told her publication, Haaretz,
that he found the lack of accountability troubling. He complained that the authorities didn’t release abortion statistics regularly, and that it was problematic that nearly every woman who went before an abortion panel was approved for the procedure, and also that private abortions were regularly performed with no consequences.
Hajj Yahya said the purpose of the hearing was to explore the issue and find members of the coalition who would be willing to support introducing clergy onto the abortion panels – “not to pressure, but to explain.”
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