A Woman's Exclusive Right

In Israel in 2013, an alliance that combines elements of racism, chauvinism and ultra-nationalism is still allowed.

The Efrat organization endeavors to persuade Jewish women with unwanted pregnancies not to have abortions. It does so using pressure and unacceptable propaganda tactics. The centerpiece of Efrat's website is a video depicting the head of the association, Dr. Eli J. Schussheim, convincing a young woman not to have an abortion, against a background of images of smiling babies. A few months ago Efrat distributed to home mailboxes a leaflet showing the developmental stages of a fetus that was pictured as screaming at its mother, from within her womb, "Mommy don't kill me, today my fingernails grew ...." In October police officers shot and killed Raz Attias, 18, after he threatened to kill his girlfriend and then himself. It later came to light that the girlfriend had been pregnant and that she had complained that Efrat volunteers had pressured her not to go through with her intended abortion.

Israel's chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger do not think the organization's stance is a problem. On Wednesday they sent a letter to Israel's synagogue and community rabbis, writing: "We see great importance in the work of the Efrat association ... which has saved, in the course of approximately 30 years of work, tens of thousands of fetuses."

This was not a lone gesture of support. The chief rabbis, whose institutions are publicly funded, have long given support to the cause. For the past several years they have faithfully sent out periodic public letters inveighing against abortion, and last year wrote that they were acting "to encourage births in the Jewish nation and prevent unnecessary abortions." Amar and Metzger even instructed the marriage departments in the local governments' religious councils to continue distributing Efrat's booklet, "For a Happy Marriage," due to "its great importance and necessity."

It is already 2013, but in Israel an alliance between leaders of the establishment and an association that combines elements of racism, chauvinism and ultra-nationalism is still allowed. It appears that under the pretext of ostensibly greater problems, from the Iranian nuclear threat and the budget deficit to the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel is going backward in everything having to do with fundamental principles, such as the exclusive right of every woman to control her own body and plan her own life.