Sunday, June 14, 2015

+972 writer Mairav Zonszein scores an NYT op-ed by coming up with a brand new way to bash Israel:
I KNEW Israeli law required that all abortions be approved by a committee. I also knew that the procedure was widely accessible. I’d never heard of an Israeli woman being denied an abortion (as opposed to say, a divorce, which must be granted by the husband in a religious court).

So I never really gave it much thought, until I found myself sitting in front of such a committee, six weeks pregnant with a 5-month-old baby at home.

When I went to my gynecologist, all he could do was provide me with an ultrasound as proof of my pregnancy. “I don’t do abortions,” he told me. “The committees deal with them. You can call this number.”

Each committee includes a social worker and two doctors. The law stipulates four criteria, any of which is sufficient for approval: If the woman is below 18 or over 40; if the fetus is in danger; if the mother’s mental or physical health is at risk; or if the pregnancy occurs out of wedlock or is the result of rape or incest.

I am 33 and free of medical issues. But because my partner and I are not legally married, I felt some relief knowing that I had a clear ticket out. Still, I balked at the realization that I had to request permission.

The Pregnancy Termination Committee at the hospital near me operates for only a few hours twice a week. As I waited to register, it began to sink in: I had no control, no privacy and no anonymity over this intimate, difficult matter pertaining strictly to my own body. The idea that anyone but me had the power to decide my family’s fate and mine was harrowing. Israel’s abortion policy, it hit me, was the opposite of liberal.

Not that my request wasn’t granted. The doctors (one man, one woman, as per protocol) informed me as I walked through the door that I was “approved.”

There were no medical questions or examinations, no offers of information or assistance. It was cold, efficient bureaucracy. A nurse administered the abortion medically the next day.

I didn’t feel any stigma from the staff. But some committees might be more judgmental than others.
I can certainly sympathize with the difficulty of deciding to abort a child, even for someone who passionately believes in a woman's right to do so. I can even feel for the desire not to have to face a committee, no matter how empathetic and professional they are.

But forgive me if I don't quite believe that Zonszein cares about her privacy or anonymity, when a process that she admits was quick, nonjudgmental and painless is fodder for her anti-Israel op-ed in a major international newspaper.

And she cannot complain that she has no control, either, for the same reason she cannot complain that there are back-alley abortions in Israel for married women who want to abort:
The most recent figures show that, in practice, 98 percent of abortion requests in Israel are approved. But of the approximately 40,000 abortions performed each year, only around half go through the committees.

The other estimated 20,000 are being conducted illegally, through doctors at private clinics, not at home or in alleyways. There are plenty of doctors you can find online at the click of a button. While they are theoretically subject to punitive legal measures, their patients are not — and the authorities simply look the other way.

Many illegal abortions are thought to involve married women. These women may fear rejection of their applications, or that the invasive committee process will take too long and they want to put the ordeal behind them as quickly as possible.
If she was so concerned over her privacy and anonymity, why did she do through this process to begin with? She could have found an alternative, as she admits, at the click of a button.

Likewise, Zonszein cannot complain that those wanting abortions outside the committee system have to pay for them:
A 2014 reform to the national health coverage law offers free abortions to all women between 20 and 33 regardless of circumstance.
They are free. Period.

Although Israel is often seen as relatively progressive on abortion because a vast majority of women are able to terminate their pregnancies, the situation here is actually the inverse of most Western countries, where abortion is lawful and largely free of restrictions. Israel’s policy may be better than countries where abortions are strictly prohibited (like Brazil and Egypt), or where exceptions are made only to save a woman’s life (like Ireland), but it is far from being liberal.
OK. Let's compare the supposed restrictions on legal abortions in Israel with liberal European countries that she claims are "largely free of restrictions."

In the Netherlands, a five-day waiting period is required between the initial consultation and the abortion.

In Sweden, between 12 and 18 weeks of gestation, the women must discuss the procedure with a social worker.

In the UK, two registered medical practitioners must certify that the required medical grounds have been met.

In Italy, a "one-week reflection period" is imposed unless the situation is one of urgency. A certificate confirming the pregnancy and the request for termination must be issued by a doctor and signed by the woman and the doctor.

In Finland, an abortion must be authorized by one or two doctors up to 12 weeks, or by the State Medical Board up to 20 weeks. Abortion is free of charge under national health insurance but women must pay hospital fees.

In Germany, the woman must receive state-regulated counselling to inform the woman that the unborn have a right to life and to try to convince her to continue her pregnancy.

So when you compare Israel's abortion procedures with those of European nations, Israel is indeed more liberal than most. Zonszein is lying and the New York Times is not fact-checking her.

Women who do not want to go through the committees can easily get safe, professional and free abortions. But...the process isn't "liberal" enough for the New York Times. And that is a good enough reason to add to the list of terrible things that Israel is doing.

As long as your op-ed bashes Israel, it is fair game for the NYT to publish it, no matter how trivial or unfair it is. This op-ed is even more cynical than most, because it gratuitously uses what is supposedly a very personal experience for the writer as extra emotional ammunition to publicly hurt Israel.


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