Gagged by Red Tape: Israeli Bureaucracy Limits Women’s Access to Information on Abortion

Having heard about an Israeli Ministry of Health pamphlet on abortion supposedly available to all women. LILITH sent one of its Jerusalem correspondents to retrieve one. Little did we know that we were tending Rachel Kadish on a lengthy expedition. Welcome to typical Israeli bureaucracy:

Clearly whoever wrote the “One nation handles the problem of abortion in an intelligent way” piece was either doing shoddy journalism or misguidedly glorifying Israel—or both. The health care system’s view of patient rights is lousy, women’s rights here are lousy, and the abortion issue is no exception on either of these fronts. Not only is the booklet you asked for not readily available—it doesn’t seem to be available at all. I made 4 calls to the Ministry of Health before I found anyone who had even heard of the booklet. I was then told that the Ministry had sent out all its copies to various hospitals so not one booklet remained to send to me (bullshit). Two hospital trips later, it seemed that there was not one chief nurse in the women’s departments who had heard of the booklet.

It’s very possible that, had I stormed into the Ministry of Health or raised a huge fuss, I would have gotten a copy. But given that I didn’t identify myself as a journalist (as far as they knew I was just some random woman on the phone asking for info about abortion) I was angry at the lack of helpfulness. I am sure the booklet exists, and I’m sure the average Israeli woman is better at bypassing the bureaucracy to get at it than I am, but I’m pretty stumped as to how to get it through “regular channels.” In any event, the article’s claim that the booklet is available in all major hospitals is 100% wrong (Hadassah Mt. Scopus had never heard of it.)

So if you still feel strongly about seeing the booklet I will do my best to go raise hell in the Ministry of Health. But if all you wanted to know was whether there had indeed been an improvement in the info readily available to women . . . here is your answer. I’ve been burning up over this one.”