Hundreds gathered in Habima Square on Tuesday evening in solidarity with women in the United States and to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court last Friday.
The event’s organizers have stated that the reason for the protest is to demonstrate against the decision from afar and to show support for reproductive rights in the US and a person’s right to access a safe abortion.
“We will convene a rally to demonstrate against this terrible decision that takes the United States back by fifty years,” wrote the organizers. “Women will not stop having abortions – all this ruling means is that there will be more illegal and dangerous abortions.”
Chants of “Pro-life that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die,” filled the square as crowds gathered, many holding signs expressing anger and disgust at the Supreme Court’s decision.
Comparing the situation in the United States to the situation in Israel, the event organizers wrote that “even in Israel today, people who want to terminate a pregnancy have to go through a committee and countless bureaucratic procedures in order to exercise their rights to their bodies.”
By Israeli law, women do not have an automatic right to an abortion, but rather must request permission from a legally mandated end-of-pregnancy committee made up of three representatives of the hospital or clinic that would perform the procedure.
The panels, which approve the lion’s share of requests, vet cases based on criteria such as a woman’s age, how the pregnancy came about, and the health of the fetus. Married women aged 18-40 often have to lie in order to meet one of the criteria required for approval, the head of one committee told Army Radio earlier this week.
Women have complained for years that the panels are needlessly invasive and humiliating, and some feel that they have no choice but to lie to the committees in order to be granted permission.
However, the Knesset Labor Welfare and Health Committee on Monday approved new regulations aimed at making it easier for women to get an abortion by removing some of the procedures required, opening up broader and simplified options for those seeking to end a pregnancy.
A key change to the decades-old regulations will see drug-induced early-term abortions made available at HMO clinics rather than only at hospitals, the Health Ministry said in a statement announcing the development. Women seeking an abortion will no longer have to physically face a review committee that approves abortions. Nixing the committee altogether requires legislation, which is unlikely to pass, but the new regulations mean there will now be no need for applicants to appear in person before the panels.
The application process will be digitized, enabling committee members to have access to all necessary information and at the same time obviating the need for a woman to drop off the paperwork in person. The request form, which in the past has faced criticism for being too invasive and humiliating, will also be updated, with the questionnaire reduced to a minimum and “degrading question” removed, the statement said. The new regulations will come into effect in three months.