Couple Suspected of Running Illegal Abortion Clinic, Trafficking in Migrant Workers' Babies

Fear of detainment and questioning causes many foreigners in Israel to refrain from visiting authorized clinics.

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A Tel Aviv couple was questioned Thursday on suspicion of performing illegal abortions and trafficking in newborn babies born to foreigners residing in Israel, through an illegal clinic run out the back of a food store.

Tel Aviv district police forces, assisted by Border Police units, raided two locations in southern Tel Aviv – an apartment on Levinski Street and a store selling food from the Far East at the central bus station. The policemen who arrived at the food store were accompanied by inspectors from the Health Ministry.

According to information received by the police, the store was used for performing abortions on foreign women with no legal standing in Israel. The women who frequented it, police suspect, refrained from going to authorised clinics out of fear of being detained and questioned.

According to the allegations, the couple - who are well known in the migrant community in southern Tel Aviv - gave abortion-inducing pills to women who approached them for help in ending their pregnancies.

The police also suspect that the two mediated in the trafficking of unwanted babies born to foreign couples who were unwilling or unable to raise the babies due to financial or mental stress. According to information obtained by police, the apartment and store also served as delivery rooms, to which women were brought at the end of their pregnancies. The couple is suspected of sedating the women, taking their babies upon delivery, and giving them to childless couples in the migrant community. The two extracted large sums of money from the adoptive parents, keeping some as their fee and giving the rest to the mother.

In the course of the search at the couple’s apartment and store, police found various pills and medications that appear to have been used for sedation and performance of abortions. There is no evidence so far to support the charges of baby trafficking. Police say their information came from multiple sources, and expressed concern over the phenomenon of illegal medical practice within the migrant community.

The couple were not detained, but senior officials said that the investigation was still in its early stages, with police and Health Ministry officials trying to determine the scope of the problem.

Currently, migrant workers or people without legal status in Israel are not eligible for joining Israeli HMO’s. They are provided with essential services only in hospital emergency rooms, or at a designated clinic at the central bus station.

An Israeli woman wishing to have an abortion must first obtain permission from a committee for approval of termination of pregnancy at one of the country’s hospitals. The cost of appearing before such a committee is NIS 415 (over $100).

But since migrant women usually do not have health insurance, their only choice is to have a private abortion - a procedure that costs NIS 2,912 (roughly $830) when done surgicaly, and NIS 2,099 (roughly $600) when medication is used. The choice of procedure depends on the stage of pregnancy.

It should be noted that the state does fund termination of non-Israelis' pregnancies when these are the result of rape.

The shop in Tel Aviv's central bus station.Credit: Nir Keidar

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