Working to end abortion in Israel


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday the 10th of January, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up, abortion in Israel.

Taking the life of the unborn in Israel can only be done with approval of a “termination committee.” In practice, nearly any woman can get that approval. So much so that a woman can abort her baby at any point in her pregnancy, and the government funds the procedure for women between 20 and 33 years old. Nearly 20,000 babies die in legal abortions every year there. Activists estimate about the same number die through illegal abortion.

BASHAM: But the Jewish culture is very pro-family. And from its founding, Israel has encouraged women to have babies to help rebuild the population lost to the Holocaust. The country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, once said, “Any Jewish woman who does not bring into the world at least four healthy children is shirking her duty to the nation.” While the government funds abortion, it also subsidizes in vitro fertilization. Israel has the highest IVF rate per capita in the world.

REICHARD: So what’s behind this contradiction? WORLD Magazine reporter Charissa Crotts recently traveled to Israel and talked to pro-life activists about their work.

Good morning, Charissa.

CHARISSA CROTTS, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.

REICHARD: Charissa, during your visit to Jerusalem, you met with the chief social worker of that country’s largest group battling abortion. Tell us about who they are and what they do.

CROTTS: They’re called Efrat. It’s spelled E-f-r-a-t. It means Miriam in Hebrew. Anyway, it was founded in the 1950s when abortion was totally illegal and their mission changed slightly in 1977 when legal abortion became available under certain circumstances. Now, they have about 20 part-time workers who try to convince women to keep their babies. They focus on overcoming the top two reasons Israeli women choose abortion: financial pressure and misunderstanding of the risks of pregnancy.

REICHARD: And then what kind of things do they talk to women about and how do they help them?

CROTTS: They give counseling and advice about medical realities and make women aware of other options they have. They also offer practical help in the forms of things like diapers and wipes.

REICHARD: Well, babies do need an awful lot of things. And that sounds a lot like what crisis pregnancy centers do here in the U.S. But you noted one major difference between Efrat and American pro-life groups. Tell us about that.  

CROTTS: Yeah, they have a different strategy, so they don’t use any graphic images, they don’t call abortion murder or even reference the morality of the question. The group also doesn’t work to change laws or lobby outside abortion clinics. Their focus is really on demographics, harkening back to Ben Gurion.

REICHARD: So that’s the group Efrat. What about other groups? And are there any Christians working to end abortion in Israel?

CROTTS: Yes, I spoke with Sandi Shoshani. She’s the director of one called Be’ad Chaim. It’s a smaller group, but its work looks similar to Efrat. They have a different motivation, though. Instead of working to rebuild the Jewish population, they’re really focusing on saving babies who were made in God’s image. So, it was interesting to learn about some of these differences.

Jews and Christians in Israel tend to oppose abortion—just like here—but I got the impression no one really talks about it. It’s far from the hot button issue like it is in the States and there haven’t been any legal challenges or changes to the law since 1977.

So far, Be’ad Chaim has helped to save 2,500 babies. Shoshani says she knows the number is “just a drop in the bucket, but thank God, it’s something.”

REICHARD: It is something and it’s something precious, indeed. WORLD Magazine reporter Charissa Crotts. Thanks for this report.

CROTTS: You’re welcome.


(Eddie Gerald/laif/Redux) Volunteers at the Efrat office prepare letters to be delivered to new mothers considering aborting their babies. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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