The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday agreed that women should be entitled to birth benefits starting in the 22nd week of pregnancy, approving an amendment to the law by Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz.
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Presently, birth rights only begin after 26 weeks of pregnancy. At this point, any insured woman who gives birth is entitled to a birth allowance, birth grant and maternity leave. Any woman who gives birth to a stillborn baby from the 26th week is also entitled to the same rights as the mother of a live baby. However, women who have a stillbirth between the 22nd and 26th weeks receive nothing, even though they may have undergone a medical procedure identical to that of mothers who gave birth from 26 weeks.
The cost of implementing the amendment will be some 4 million shekels (about $1 million). “This is an important amendment that will help women cope with the trauma of a stillborn baby or an involuntary abortion,” said Katz.
The amendment will ensure that women don’t suffer like A., who had a stillbirth in the 23rd week. “Everything was fine until the 21st week, when an examination revealed that the placenta had become severed from the baby,” she said. “After a Caesarean section, my baby was born dead.
“What broke me was the fact that even after she was born dead, they didn’t treat me like a woman who had undergone a pregnancy – the government ignores you because the baby isn’t alive. There isn’t even maternity leave, and I had to take sick days at my own expense because I didn’t feel like I could return to work,” she added.
Had A. given birth three weeks later, the existing law would have granted her maternity leave, a birth allowance and birth grant.
About 20 percent of stillbirths in Israel take place starting from the 22nd week, when the fetus dies in the uterus, or when they are forced to abort due to a birth defect and there is no possibility of removing the baby by means of medical treatment. In 2014, there were some 900 stillbirths, about 170 of them between the 22nd and 26th weeks.
The birth allowance is meant to replace the woman’s salary while she is absent from work. The new mother also receives a grant for purchasing basic equipment for the baby, which ranges from 525 shekels to 1,751 shekels, depending on the number of births. During maternity leave, the employee does not receive a salary but is entitled to a birth allowance for 14 weeks from the National Insurance Institute. In 2014, about 120,000 women received this allowance.