Contrary to a spurious opinion piece published in the New York Times, Israeli abortion law is quite liberal. What’s more, writes Evelyn Gordon, it is a model of how compromise can be reached in cases where traditional Jewish values conflict with those of liberalism:
By law, abortions require the approval of a committee comprising two doctors and a social worker. These committees (which all hospitals have) can approve abortions only in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy; after that, a special exceptions committee must authorize the procedure. . . . [I]n practice, . . . 98 percent of all abortion requests are approved; these criteria—especially the one about the woman’s mental health—are flexible enough that some committee can always be found to say yes. Moreover, . . . since abortions that meet the criteria can be approved anytime, they end up being easier to obtain here than in many liberal European countries, where limits on later-term abortions are much stricter.
The result is that while neither the liberal nor the Jewish side gets everything it wants, both get something important. Liberals get the fact that almost anyone who wants an abortion can get one, even in cases where Jewish law wouldn’t permit it; but they don’t get a legal right to an abortion; nor is the fetus deemed merely part of a woman’s body, subject to her full control. Religious Jews get a law which sends a clear message that destroying a potential life is justified only in exceptional circumstances; but, in practice, they must accept many abortions that don’t meet that standard.