War of the Wombs: Struggles over Abortion Policies in Israel
Dr Rebecca Steinfeld (Stanford)
ABSTRACT: This presentation examines the historical and contemporary struggles that have led to the gap between the restrictions on, and availability of, abortion in Israel. It attributes this gap to the compromise necessitated by conflicts amongst competing policymakers, motivated by opposing viewpoints and interests, over the objectives and substance of abortion policies. Opposition to abortion stems primarily from demographic anxiety relating to both the Holocaust and the Muslim Arab-Jewish fertility differential in Israel/Palestine. Support for access to abortion stems from countervailing concerns about the implications of unrestrained fertility for women’s health, family welfare and social stability, as well as ‘qualitative’ interests in reproducing healthy children. Some feminists have also resisted attempts to render women’s wombs national vessels. This presentation explores the evolution of these struggles over four distinct historical periods, and assesses their impact on women’s reproductive experiences and rights.
SPEAKER: Dr Rebecca Steinfeld is a political scientist researching the politics of reproduction and genital alteration. She completed her PhD in Politics at the University of Oxford, and is now writing her first book, Wars of the Wombs: Struggles over Reproduction in Israel (Stanford University Press, forthcoming). She is also a BBC and Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘New Generation Thinker’ and Haaretz ‘Jewish Thinker.’ She has broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 4 and 5, regularly writes in Haaretz, and has published in The Guardian, The Independent, The Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish Quarterly, and Tablet Magazine.
Further information about the CJS research seminar programme and other Jewish Studies events at the University.