Women who choose to give birth at home will soon be entitled to a financial birth grant equivalent to the allowance paid out to women who give birth in hospitals, if legislation proposed by the National Insurance Institute (NII) is approved by the Knesset in the coming weeks.
According to a statement put out by the NII on Thursday, women who decided to give birth outside of recognized medical institutions would receive a one-time payment after each child was born – a benefit that in the past has only been afforded to those giving birth in hospitals.
For Ruthie Davis, who gave birth to her youngest child at home 13 years ago, the move is a big step toward allowing “women to give birth the way that they want to.”
When Davis made the decision not to give birth in a hospital, she had no idea that she would not then be eligible for the standard birth grant handed out by the government for the baby’s initial needs.
“The government booklet did not make this clear,” said Davis, who went on to take legal action against what she believed to be an unfair practice against women who chose not to give birth in hospitals.
While the court did not rule in her favor, the judge did advise her to work on getting the law changed to support home births, and Davis has continued to fight for the rights of women not to give birth in a hospital.
“I really hope that this is only a first step and that there will also be efforts made to financially support women so they can give birth at home without having to worry about the costs of equipment and professional midwives,” she added.
Nirit Shapira, a representative of the Movement for Freedom of Choice in Childbirth, which has been fighting for state recognition of home births for many years, described the legislation as “a very exciting development.”
“Studies have been carried out [showing] that more and more women are choosing to do it,” she said, explaining that state legislation approved in the 1950s had made it almost compulsory for women to give birth in hospitals, with the birth grant being one of the main incentives.
“Times are different now,” continued Shapira. “But even so, it is a very difficult to change perceptions that have been drummed into us for so long.”
Shapira and Davis both pointed out that additional changes needed to be made to transfer the government fees paid to hospitals for this purpose, to women giving birth at home.
“It will mean that the service a woman receives at home is safer for her and her baby,” pointed out Shapira.
In some European countries where birthing at home is more common, the state pays for medical staff at the woman’s home, as well as an ambulance on stand-by in case of complications.
While the NII would not discuss whether this was being considered in the future, a spokesman for the institute explained that the current move had come about after an increasing number of women had begun opting for home births.
According to information from the NII, some 800 women gave birth at home in 2009, but unless they checked themselves and their newborns into a hospital for the standard two days within 24 hours after birth, they had to forgo some of the benefits awarded to other new mothers.
If the new arrangement does come to fruition, women will be required to visit a nearby hospital for a brief check-up within 36 hours to receive their birth grant.
“We are planning to make it a quick but safe and convenient way to check the mother and child together,” claimed the NII spokesman.
However, Michal Levy, a Jerusalem-based childbirth educator and author of the blog Israel Doula, said the new arrangement was, in reality, no different from the current arrangement.
“In reality, no one is able to be in and out of a hospital within half an hour,” she said. “We all know that it takes much longer, and whether a woman has to be at the hospital 24 hours or 36 hours after the birth, it really makes no difference. They still have to go to the hospital.”
She added, “I think they are just trying to give the impression to
birth advocates that they are doing all they can for women, when in
reality its not true.”
Levy claims that most women who opt for home births believe in the
practice so deeply they are willing to give up on the government’s
“I’m not sure why women can’t just visit their local health clinic. It’s much easier,” she said.
According to Levy – who describes herself as an advocate for normal
childbirth – for most low-risk women, birthing at home is a safe
“[Having a baby] is not some kind of illness where you have to be in
the hospital,” she finished. “At home, it’s a much more relaxed and
natural environment to give birth in; hospitals are connected to
stress, whether we want them to be or not. At home, a woman is
completely free to do as she chooses.”