A 1977 law ensures a low-cost, and in some cases free, legal abortion to any woman who fills one of four criteria:
· She is under 18 or over 40 (cost to those in between: 1,500 shekels [$370]).
· She is carrying a fetus with a serious mental or physical defect (free).
· She claims that the fetus results from forbidden relations such as rape or incest (free) or, in the case of a married woman, that the baby is not her husband's (not free). Single women also fall under this clause, and they too must pay.
· She shows that by continuing the pregnancy, her physical or mental health would be damaged (free).
A woman who seeks to terminate a pregnancy must appear before one of the 41 abortion committees operating in public and private hospitals around the country. These committees include a physician whose field of expertise is obstetrics and gynecology; another physician who is either a family doctor, psychiatrist, internist or gynecologist and a social worker. At least one woman must be present on each committee.
Six separate committees consider requests for termination when a fetus is beyond 24 weeks old. No hospitals in Jerusalem, however, will perform these abortions.
In 1999, 19,674 applications out of 20,581 were approved (96%) and 18,785 pregnancies were terminated. In addition, 16,000 abortions were illegally performed in private doctors' clinics.
Source: Jerusalem Report, (February 12, 2001).