American evangelicals export pro-life activism to pro-choice Israel

American evangelicals are exporting the pro-life movement to Israel in the midst of court decisions at home and politics abroad that are signaling a more favorable climate for such activism, reports the Washington Post (November 18). Although Israel legalized abortion four years after America’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 and has been vocal in condemning its overturning last summer, pregnancy crisis centers sponsored by conservative American evangelicals are becoming more prominent in the country, reports Shira Rubin. Centers like the multimillion dollar Be’ad Chaim, which has rapidly expanded in recent years (with 200 employees in its Jerusalem office), are making a public case against abortion in an effort to change the “conversation about abortion and lay the groundwork for a political movement,” Rubin writes. Public anti-abortion campaigns, including highway billboards with ultrasound photos and other advertisements, are a growing phenomenon in a country where abortion has not been controversial. Israel’s Central Board of Statistics states that 98 percent of women who request the state-funded procedure are able to get one.

Prolife in Israel: photo of office of Be’ad Chaim (source: Kehila News).

Pro-life activists feel they have momentum on their side, with the overturning of Roe, the November election of former conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has voiced strong support of evangelicals, and the new political prominence of the Religious Zionist Party. Bezalel Smotrich, Religious Zionism’s leader, has criticized Israel’s abortion policy as a “license to kill fetuses” and has promised to change it. But Rubin writes that many see Jewish law as allowing abortion because it does not recognize unborn life as having a soul. Abortion in Israel has long been a bone of contention for evangelicals who are largely pro-life and pro-Zionist, but evangelicals believe they are breaking new ground. One new initiative called Operation Moses, run by a church in the U.S., sponsors babies’ expenses during their first year of life.