As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, pregnant women haven’t been coming to our office out of fear of coming in contact with an infected person on their way here or home. On our part, we don’t want to make appointments with women, because of concern that they, themselves, might be infected. In light of the Israeli government’s restrictions, it is probably a wise thing to do. Nevertheless, pregnant women continue to call us on the phone during this pandemic crisis to ask a multitude of health-related questions due to their concern over the possibility of contracting the virus, how it would affect their pre-born child, whether they should abort, how can they protect themselves, and more.
Mixed Messages from Authorities
Israel’s Ministry of Health has ordered that only certain “elective” medical procedures can be performed during the crisis, and they did not include voluntary abortions in the list. As a result, hospital administrators, in consultation with the local abortion committee, determine whether or not to carry out the termination of a pregnancy. Obviously, some will approve it, while others that normally do, won’t – at least for now – until further notice. As a result of the present situation, the abortion committee for each hospital appears to be deciding whether to reduce the number of abortions performed and how much to reduce. Presently, there seems to be a widespread cancellation of appointments to perform abortions, most probably due to the fact that women, who are generally healthy, don’t want to be exposed to the potential risks of disease by going to the hospital.
Some women’s organizations have applied to the Ministry of Health, asking them to add “cessation of pregnancy” (abortion) to the list of exceptional procedures, as well as to find a solution that would allow the continued performance of an abortion during this period, while maintaining the safety of teens and women, and reducing unnecessary trips to the hospitals.
The Essential Services Argument
These organization argue that “Termination of pregnancy is not a procedure that can be delayed and violating the right to accessible and safe abortions could very well cause women to act out of despair in ways that would endanger them. We must protect those women so they can receive this essential service, despite the current situation.” This, by the way, is also the position of pro-abortion organizations in the United States.
The Ministry of Health says that in every hospital there is an Exceptions Committee that can decide on matters that are not included in the list of approved procedures, and that it is up to them to determine if a procedure is needed, including abortions.
So, while many appointments for voluntary abortions are being cancelled, there is a strong push to try to get the hospitals to be more flexible in performing abortions and in bypassing the abortion committee.
Women are Seeking Answers
Nevertheless, our phone continues to be busy, with calls being forwarded to Orit or to Irena. Praise the Lord! Women want someone to listen to them and to encourage them to continue their pregnancies, which is what we do, while others are pressuring them to abort. This is not an easy time for them.
To drive the point home, another article from 21 March, 2020, appeared in the Hebrew news publication Devar, The Workers in Israel, entitled Pregnancy and Birth in the Shadow of the Plague, in which it listed a series of questions and answers.
In the last full paragraph, the question is asked: “If I test positive to the virus, will the virus be transferred from me to the baby?”
The answer, according to Prof. Roni Maimon, Chairman of the Israeli Midwives and Gynecology Organization and Director of the Women’s and Newborn’s Unit in the Shamir Medical Center – Asaf HaRofeh, was:
“From all appearances, the virus does not go from the mother to the [pre-born child – in Hebrew, the term used is “fetus”] in the womb, nor during the process of giving birth or in the mother’s milk. It can be transmitted from the parent to the child by close contact. On the other hand, the baby needs close contact with his or her mother. The question whether the baby should be separated from the mother, or if it is enough that the mother protects herself while she is in contact with the baby is still being clarified.”Translated from Devar, The Workers in Israel, 21 March 2020
From various reports, the number of abortions has declined in various countries around the world, due to closure of health facilities and institutions that provide assistance to women, not only in treatment, but of supplies of usually available means of contraception.
No Clear Answer
One of the Hebrew papers reported that The American Disease Control Center addressed the issue of the presence of coronavirus in breast milk, the risk of infecting infants in the uterus, and the risk of birth defects and miscarriages. It determined that the risk of transmitting the virus to an unborn child (they refer to the child as a fetus) or to a newborn during labor is unknown. To date, none of the newborns has been found to be infected with COVID-19, nor was the virus detected in the amniotic fluid of the pre-born children. So, clearly, the coronavirus is not a reason to encourage abortion.
However, research has not stopped there; it is looking at the only “known” based on the prior coronavirus epidemics – SARS and MERS, as well as regular flu viruses. For those viruses, pregnant women were found to be more susceptible to complications; hence, they are being advised to keep a safe distance between themselves and COVID-19 carriers who are in isolation.
A Call to Prayer
May life be snatched from the jaws of death and bless those who choose life.
Thank you all for standing with us in prayer and material support during this unprecedented time in our recent history. Please keep our team in prayer, that we would have wisdom to answer the many questions directed toward us. And please continue to remember the woman facing a decision for life, as well as those who have already made that decision.
Bless, be blessed, and be a blessing. Marvin (for us all)