Israel readies for possibility of pregnancies in female hostages raped by Hamas

When the pregnancy is a result of a terrorist who previously murdered her relatives and brutally raped her, the emotional aftermath is unimaginable, leaving lasting psychological scars.

 The cage bars of a prison cell (Illustrative). (photo credit: RAWPIXEL)
The cage bars of a prison cell (Illustrative).
(photo credit: RAWPIXEL)

The Israeli medical community, usually reluctant to consider such scenarios, has recently actively been preparing for the appalling possibility of several female hostages who were raped in captivity and subsequently become pregnant.

According to sources who spoke with Maariv, there have been comprehensive discussions in hospitals across the country about preparing for the return of Israeli hostages who have been sexually assaulted by Hamas terrorists and are currently at different stages of pregnancy.

Israeli law permits abortions, granting women the autonomy to decide their course of action. However, the state is now faced with the daunting task of addressing the enduring trauma that will affect the victims and their families for a lifetime.

Sunday represents the 100th day since the Hamas massacre, and among the 136 hostages still held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip are women who are shrouded in a heavy cloud of concern, a topic not discussed enough. Reports from October 7 indicated that the terrorists committed heinous acts of rape, and testimonies from some of the returned hostages suggested that the women endured sexual harassment, possibly including rape, while in captivity.

These disturbing assessments have prompted gynecologists to hold internal discussions in recent weeks about the dreadful possibility that captives were raped and have been pregnant for several weeks.

 A BILLBOARD in Tel Aviv displays the photos of the hostages currently being held by Hamas in Gaza. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
A BILLBOARD in Tel Aviv displays the photos of the hostages currently being held by Hamas in Gaza. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Risks of pregnancy 

Each passing day not only heightens the risk for the pregnant captive, as the woman's body is in a state of specific immunosuppression during pregnancy, but the challenging hygienic conditions in the Strip also increase the risk of severe infections and endanger the mother from severe pregnancy complications without any medical oversight. Perhaps most significantly, it's the profound psychological trauma of a woman carrying a fetus resulting from the brutal rape by a murderous terrorist.

Unlike many countries where abortion is prohibited or allowed only up to the 23rd week of pregnancy, Israeli law permits abortions up to the moment of birth. Abortions can be authorized by a regular termination committee up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Beyond this period, terminations are overseen by a special committee of senior doctors, which also consider cases of fetuses with congenital disabilities, the mother's mental health, or even pregnancies resulting from rape. In Israel, both committees consistently approve abortions in rape cases.

In the early stages of pregnancy, abortions are carried out using Cytotec pills, which cause the opening and contraction of the cervix and the expulsion of the pregnancy, and Mifepristone, which inhibits the action of the hormone progesterone necessary for pregnancy development. However, as time passes, there is increasing concern that captives will have to undergo a late termination of pregnancy, in which drugs are used to stop the fetus's heart activity with a needle. The later the abortion is performed, the higher the medical risk to the mother and her chances of future pregnancies.

Medics prepare for scenario

Teams of gynecologists in medical centers nationwide have already appointed professionals to prepare for such a catastrophic scenario. The doctors emphasized that the medical aspect is based on established protocols for pregnancy termination. However, Israel must now grapple with the most challenging element: the severe psychological impact on a captive woman who has conceived.

"The human brain struggles to comprehend the situation of a captive in captivity who must deal not only with the pregnancy but also with the fact that it was conceived through the brutal rape by a murderous terrorist," said Prof. Tal Biron-Shental the chair and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

"Performing an abortion is a procedure we are all familiar with and skilled in. However, the primary challenge the state must now address is the horrific and daunting psychological trauma. A pregnant woman, feeling fetal movements and with a visibly growing belly, naturally attaches to the fetus.

The hostages' psychological trauma 

But when the pregnancy is a result of a terrorist who previously murdered her relatives and brutally raped her, the emotional aftermath is unimaginable. It will leave lasting psychological scars on the woman and her family for years. Unfortunately, Israel's mental health system is so inadequately resourced, with long waiting times and insufficient services for the entire population in need.

I am uncertain how they will cope, but we must prepare now for this terrible theoretical possibility of a woman conceiving or raising such a child. Thus, we must stop this atrocity, not allow the captives to perish there, bring them back, and provide them with care. This commitment is the obligation of the world that remains silent," Biron-Shental added.

Prof. Hagai Levine, chairman of Israel's Association of Public Health Physicians and head of the medical department of the Captives Families Headquarters, explained, "The task of terminating an advanced pregnancy becomes increasingly complex and challenging as the days in captivity progress. Stress, polluted environments, and the absence of medical supervision amplify the complications and dangers of pregnancy for the mother, even before considering the appalling psychological aspect. We have been pressing for a long time with requests to allow medical examinations and the transfer of medications. If there is a captive woman who, God forbid, has conceived from rape, it is imperative to bring her home urgently."