Efrat is an Israeli anti-abortion group which tries to convince Jewish women not to undergo abortions. To this end, the organization distributes explanatory materials and offers economic aid to pregnant women considering abortion.
The name "Efrat" comes from I Chronicles, in which Efrat is the name of Caleb's wife (according to Jewish tradition, she is none other than Miriam). The Midrash Rabbah writes, "Why was she called Efrat? Because Israel was fruitful ("paru") and multiplied through her." This refers to her actions against Pharaoh's decree of infanticide, by which she saved the lives of many Israelite children.
Efrat's explanatory materials demonstrate the fetus' qualities of life during the different stages of pregnancy, with the goal of showing that the fetus is a human life. Additionally, the organization presents the medical dangers resulting from abortion, stories of women who had an abortion and later regretted it, and stories of women who planned to have an abortion but ultimately did not.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the organization has concentrated on providing financial support to pregnant women who plan on having an abortion due to their economic situation.
The organization's approach is illustrated by the following, quoted from Efrat's website:
What is an abortion? Abortion means ending the life of child who is not sufficiently developed to survive outside its mother’s womb.
Although the vast majority of abortions are performed on socio-economic grounds, an abortion does not resolve financial or social difficulties. Very often, the psychological scars caused by an abortion only serve to complicate existing problems. Sometimes, it takes women a lifetime to resolve these issues.Economic and social problems can be worked out. Situations can - and do - change. But a life can never be restored.
The organization's main offices are located in Jerusalem, and is led by Dr. Eli J. Schussheim, and, according to the organization's website, has 2,800 volunteers working on the streets in Israel.
According to the publications by the organization, in 2006 it prevented the abortion of about 2,600 fetuses, and, in total, has prevented about 25,000 abortions as of 2007.
Various bodies, among them Mishpacha Hadasha ("New Family"), have attacked the organization. The central complaint is that the religious stance of the organization supports the protection of the pregnancy at almost any price and can make both mother and child miserable, such as in cases of teen pregnancies, or pregnancies that involve medical danger.
A law proposed by Knesset Member Reshef Chayne of Shinui attempted to prevent Efrat from providing information to women considering abortion, on the basis he considered it harassment of the pregnant woman. The law was not passed, and certain legalists attacked it.
Another criticism was that the organization would station women outside offices where abortion permits are issued, with the aim of appealing to women visiting the offices. The Israel Religious Action Center appealed against the rules which regulate the pay grade of those who volunteer for National Service by participating in Efrat's activities, claiming "infringement of privacy, dignity and freedom of conscience of the women," an appeal which was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Israel.
In 2012, Efrat "ambassadors" were criticized for encouraging a pregnant teen not to have an abortion, because the teen couple later attempted suicide.
Another claim is that by working to prevent abortions in the Jewish sector only, Efrat is propagating the view that non-Jews are not equal human beings and therefore their fetuses do not deserve to be saved from abortion.
In response, Efrat claims that a stance opposing abortion is legitimate, and that in many cases, going through with an abortion will later make the woman miserable. Additionally, the organization claims that it does not coerce women to not perform an abortion, and only provides information. It also wants to ensure that women are not forced into abortions out of economic concerns.
- Efrat's website
- Friends of Efrat (USA)
- A review of Efrat, from a meeting of the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women (Hebrew)
- "Sefer Hahayim (Book of Life)", an interview with Dr. Eli J. Shussheim in the newspaper HaTzofe (Hebrew)
- Ofrah Locks, Sefer Hahayim (Book of Life), a report on Efrat in Besheva (Hebrew)
- Responsa on the topic of abortion in cases of severe illness (Hebrew)