The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women has called to "halt discrimination" against women who choose to give birth at home and to give them the same childbirth allotment automatically given to women who deliver in hospitals. In Tuesday's session, the committee said there was no law prohibiting women from intentionally giving birth at home (with help from a midwife), and therefore the National Insurance Institute (NII) should not penalize those who give birth at home or do not come to a hospital within 24 hours of delivery and spend at least 12 hours there. "The state has a right to give grants and preferences to those who choose a path preferred by the authorities," said committee chairwoman MK Lia Shemtov (Israel Beiteinu). "But it is unfairly using the payment mechanism of the NII to favor some women over others, even though every one has the right to decide where and how she wants to deliver her baby." As childbirth allotments - NIS 1,489 for the first child, less for subsequent children and much more for multiple births - are given to all mothers and not only the economically disadvantaged, she said, adding: "It is not clear why women who pay for national insurance should not be entitled to the grants." The committee asked the NII for internal guidelines relating to the demand that mothers go the hospital for births or within 24 hours of delivery. The committee called on MKs who wanted to end such discrimination to initiate a private member's bill that would change the policy. The Health Ministry has long had a policy opposing home births and argues that it is not the safest way for babies to be born. A midwife cannot easily handle an emergency and lacks vital equipment to carry out such deliveries in the woman's home, the ministry has claimed. The hospitals have a vested interest in opposing home births, because they earn a generous sum - NIS 8,000 - from the NII for every baby they deliver. The cost of a midwife at home ranges from NIS 4,000 to NIS 5,000. Women who want to have their babies at home argue that birth is a natural process and not a disease that requires hospitalization.