Dozens of demonstrators braved torrential downpours in Jerusalem on Monday
afternoon to protest an award from the Jerusalem Conference to the anti-abortion
The conference, organized by the national-religious
weekly newspaper B’Sheva, wanted to honor Efrat, which tries to provide women
with alternatives to abortion, including financial support and counseling.
Detractors accuse the organization of brainwashing and preying on women during
an emotional and vulnerable time.
Despite the stormy weather,
approximately 30 people from Meretz and a number of feminist organizations stood
in the rain and chanted “My womb is not an asset!” Two activists also managed to
enter the hall during the awards ceremony and held up signs that said “Stay out
of my friends’ womb!” prompting a shouting match between Efrat volunteers and
“This organization puts pressure on young women, and often
minors, to give birth and not to have abortions even when it’s not necessarily
the wisest thing for them to do,” said City Councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz)
who also holds the Health portfolio. “They only want to give partial information
when it’s convenient for them,” she said, as a mix of rain and hail poured down
on the protesters and their signs whipped about in the wind.
that the organization’s focus on assisting only Jewish women was “explicitly
racist.” Wharton expressed dismay that none of the politicians invited to
address the crowd heeded the activists’ demand to boycott the
“I think [Efrat] should be investigated rather than get a
prize,” she said.
According to Efrat’s website, the organization has
saved more than 54,000 children over the past 35 years and now stops
approximately 3,000 abortions per year.
The organization was roundly
condemned for its alleged involvement during a tragic suicide-by-cop in
Jerusalem in October, when 17-year-old Raz Attias was killed during a shoot-out
with volunteer police. Attias and his girlfriend planned a double suicide after
realizing his girlfriend was pregnant, and police attempted to locate and stop
him. In a dramatic turn of events, he got agitated after he was confronted with
a roadblock near Beit Shemesh and fired, prompting the police to fire
“The central problem was that there were three activists from
Efrat, called ‘pregnancy supporters,’ who sat with [the girlfriend in the
hospital] and said, ‘Don’t abort, we’re from Efrat, we will support you,’” Riki
Attias, Raz’s mother, said outside her home during the shiva mourning
In response, Chagai Goldschmidt, the organization’s director,
said “Efrat does not go to the hospital to tell youth not to have an
abortion. We do not operate in hospitals, period.”
He also denied
any contact with Raz Attias’s girlfriend, though the girl had received Efrat’s
pamphlets while hospitalized.
Goldschmidt added that anyone in a hospital
who says they are an Efrat volunteer should be reported to the police, though
they are not taking any steps to determine who approached the young
Goldschmidt added that the organization’s advertising materials
were based on true stories and not meant to manipulate women.
“We are not
brainwashing, we are giving women an option,” he said. “Efrat operates according
to what a woman needs. We are a feminist organization, we are the only
organization that really allows women to make a choice.”