Israel eases abortion regulations in response to ‘sad’ Roe v Wade ruling

New rules will remove abortion approval committees and grant access to abortion pills at local health clinics

Israel has eased its regulations on abortion access, in what the health minister said was a response to last week’s “sad” US supreme court ruling overturning Roe v Wade.

The new rules, approved by a parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the country’s universal health system and remove a longstanding requirement that women appear physically before a special committee before they are permitted to terminate a pregnancy.

On Friday US supreme court stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, after nearly half a century under Roe v Wade. The decision has triggered protests across the US and set the stage for a wave of litigation.

Israel’s health minister, Nitzan Horowitz, who heads the small liberal Meretz party, said the US decision had turned back the clock for women’s rights.

“A woman has a complete right over her body,” he said. “The Scotus decision to negate a woman’s right to make a choice over her own body is a sad process of women’s repression, setting the leader of the free and liberal world 100 years back.”

Abortion is widely available in Israel and far less controversial than in the US, but women do not automatically have the right to the procedure.

Under the new rules, Israeli women will now have access to abortion pills at their local health clinics. They will no longer need to physically appear before an abortion approval committee, and the application form will be shortened and simplified.

Abortion approval committees have been heavily criticised in Israel over the years. While most requests are approved, women have objected to being subject to bureaucracy and a humiliating and intrusive process. Women can face long wait times before they can be seen by a committee.

Instead, the process will be digitised, and a requirement to meet a social worker will become optional. The new regulations will take effect in three months.

“The reform we approved today will create a simpler process, that is more respectful, advanced, and maintains a woman’s right to make decisions over her own body – a basic human right,” Horowitz said.

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