JERUSALEM -- Israel on Monday eased its regulations on abortion access in what the country’s health minister said was a response to last week's “sad” U.S. 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.
The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans’ lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The decision has triggered protests across the U.S. and set the stage for a wave of litigation.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who heads the small liberal Meretz party, said the U.S. 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 a hundred years back.”
Abortion is widely available in Israel and far less controversial than in the U.S., but women still don’t 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 also 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 criticized 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 also can face long wait times before they can be seen by a committee.
Instead, the process will be digitized, and a requirement to meet with a social worker will become optional. The new regulations are set to 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.