Israeli Government Backs Bill to Give Women Money for Home Births

Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves bill that offers childbirth grant to women even if they don’t give birth in hospital.

Tamar Zandberg, chair of the Knesset’s Committee on Drug Abuse, at the Knesset.
Michal Fattal

The government Sunday backed a bill that will, for the first time, give women who opt for a home birth the same financial support from the state as women who give birth in hospitals.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill, which would give the National Insurance Institute childbirth grant to women who give birth at home. Until now, women who chose a home birth were deprived of the grant, in order to encourage them to give birth in hospital.

The childbirth grant is 1,751 shekels ($454) for the first baby, 788 shekels for the second baby, and 525 shekels for every subsequent birth.

There are currently between 600 and 800 home births in Israel every year. If the bill becomes law, this will mean a maximum additional annual budgetary outlay of 1.4 million shekels.

The vote on the bill was planned for last week, but was postponed until Sunday.

Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who proposed the bill, said beforehand that she believed the legislation committee would pass it, even though it came from the opposition. An expanded version of the bill was presented to the ministerial committee a few weeks ago, and was supported by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi).

Shaked worked to gain the support of Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who in turn sought the support of other ministers.

The bill the committee approved yesterday was an amended version in which Shaked asked to waive the usual requirement of a period of time between presenting the bill and voting on it, which will allow it to pass through more quickly.

Ahead of yesterday’s debate, Zandberg and Shaked released a joint statement of support for the proposed change. “The state must allow women the freedom to choose and not discriminate against those who choose to give birth at home,” Zandberg said. “The purpose of the grant is to cover the first expenses for the new baby, and the place the mother chooses to give birth is not relevant to this.”

Studies show that the medical justification for giving birth in a hospital is not valid in the case of a low-risk pregnancy attended by a midwife, Zandberg said. She added that “a woman must not be prevented from choosing the best personal option for herself by means of an economic sanction. Pregnancy and childbirth are complex, personal and private processes, and the state must respect any decision.”