Israeli Cabinet Panel Weighs Extending Maternity Benefits for Home Births

Israel currently pays a stipend of approximately $450 for a first child but only to women who give birth in hospital.

Babies in a maternity ward.
Alon Ron

The cabinet's law committee was expected to decide on Sunday about whether to support legislation that would extend maternity benefits for home births. Currently Israel provides these stipends only to those families whose children are born in hospital. 

Maternity grants amount to 1,751 shekels ($452) for a first child, 788 shekels ($203) for a second, and 525 ($135) for each additional birth.

Based on the annual number of 600 to 800 births taking place in Israel, the measure, if later approved by parliament into law after the government gives it the go ahead, would cost the state budget an additional yearly outlay of about 1.4 milion shekels.

The legislation's initiator, lawmaker Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party, expected ministers would support her bill despite her being a member of the parliamentary opposition. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, has already expressed support for the legislation in a previous committee meeting.

In a joint statement ahead of Sunday's meeting,  Shaked and Zandberg said: "The country must allow women freedom of choice and not discriminate against those who opt for home births."

"The place where a woman chooses to give birth is irrelevant to the grant's intent of helping a family pay the costs of raising a newborn."