Activists protest granting award to pro-life group

Despite rain and wind, dozens demonstrate against giving "B’Sheva" prize to anti-abortion organization Efrat.

Activists protest anti-abortion group Efrat 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Activists protest anti-abortion group Efrat 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Dozens of demonstrators braved torrential downpours in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon to protest an award from the Jerusalem Conference to the anti-abortion organization Efrat.
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 the activists.
“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.
She added 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 conference.
“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 back.
“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 period.
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 woman.
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.”