Finding out that you are pregnant can be one of the greatest and most exciting things in life. Knowing that in nine months you could be looking into the eyes of your very own tiny newborn is a feeling like no other. However, unplanned pregnancies can often be the opposite, especially if financial pressures stand in your way. Many families feel pushed into a corner, without options; they desperately want to continue their pregnancy but are concerned about the additional financial burden of raising a child.
For this reason alone, thousands of mothers- to-be are put in the agonizing position of having to decide whether or not to keep their baby. With nowhere to turn, thousands reluctantly opt to end their pregnancy, only to regret it for the rest of their lives.
Around 40,000 abortions are carried out each year in Israel; that is about 110 abortions every single day. Although there are fairly strict guidelines regarding who is eligible, over 20,000 legal, government-funded abortions are carried out each year, with approximately the same number of illegal ones. Through independent research over the past few decades, I would estimate that around 60 percent of women that opt to end their pregnancy do so because of financial concerns.
As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I have dedicated my life to saving others, practicing for over three decades as a general surgeon in some of Israel’s largest hospitals.
When I discovered that so many potential Israelis were being lost in this way, I couldn’t simply remain a bystander. In the Jewish state, where life is of optimum importance, no mother should have to give up their baby because of money.
This isn’t about being pro-life or prochoice; it’s about feeling the pain of another person that wants to scream for help but doesn’t think anyone is listening. It is about enabling someone choose what they truly want.
This is why I joined forces with EFRAT, the Committee to Rescue Israeli Babies, almost four decades ago. Then it was a small non-profit organization founded by a Holocaust survivor who had a vision of increasing Jewish birthrates in Israel following the colossal loss he had left behind in Europe. He never saw that vision realized, but by enabling the births of thousands of Jewish babies, his dream has become a reality. Nowadays we have 3,000 volunteers and social workers across the country, ready to support and assist those in need.
Our method is very simple, but very effective: We supply mothers-to-be with all of the essential items needed to raise their child for the first two years. This includes cribs, blankets, bottles, diapers, baby baths, formula etc. In extreme cases we also provide the rest of the family with monthly food packages. This way, we enable them to acclimatize mentally and financially to their new child. By removing the immediate pressure we empower women to become new mothers.
Israel is like no other place in the world.
This is also true regarding abortion. We have some of the world’s most liberal laws, yet one of the smallest abortion rates in the western world. In fact a recent report by the Health Ministry indicated that abortion rates have drastically dropped over the last decade. Many reasons are given for this, but in my mind there is only one real reason. There are fewer abortions in Israel because people don’t want them, and now they have options.
In fact, over the past 37 years, we have enabled over 56,000 happy mothers to have 56,000 healthy babies. Not a single mother has told me she regrets her decision, because there is no greater joy in the world than looking into the eyes of your newborn child.
Dr. Eli Schussheim is an Israeli surgeon and the president of EFRAT-C.R.I.B, an organization that assists women that have become pregnant, want to give birth, but can't afford to keep their baby. In addition to moral support, EFRAT provides care packages with all the essentials needed for up to the first two years after the birth, including cribs, strollers, clothing, baby baths, diapers and food. Since its establishment in 1977, EFRAT-C.R.I.B has assisted over 56,000 Israeli mothers to give birth.