Areas of Activity
The "Women and Medical Technologies Project"
The "Women and Medical Technologies Project"
“Isha L’Isha’s work in the field of medical technology was born out of the recognition that, in parallel with developments in the medical and fertility sciences, the social, economic and ethical implications must be taken into account, and women’s health rights must be protected.
It was a unique project aimed at developing public engagement and feminist discussion on issues involving science and society. The project addressed and aimed to develop critical thinking around issues such as egg “donations” and illegal egg trade, contraceptives, surrogacy, and cloning.
Promoting public engagement, of women in particular, in the fields of science and medicine, and working to prevent any exploitation of the bodies of women or men.
We aspire to promote a dialogue between science and society, a dialogue that includes a wide range of considerations and an in-depth discussion on the social, ethical and economic implications of scientific progress.
We believe that change can be achieved by maintaining solidarity among different groups and by forming coalitions that work to promote human and women’s rights in matters related to science and medicine.
The project operates through research and networking with different groups, including scientists, researchers and physicians, as well as awareness and lobbying campaigns.
The project’s areas of activity
Pregnancy termination – a woman’s right over her body
One of the most essential feminist issues, pregnancy termination embodies all the arguments, struggles, successes and failures in one important principle: a woman’s right over her body. Every person has a right over her or his body, but if you are a woman, that right is expropriated from you by national, economic and religious claims, and by the assertion of family values. Women pay for the consequences of this expropriation with their health, their souls, and their pockets.
Many women have unwanted pregnancies for all kinds of reasons: birth control failure, physical or emotional difficulties during a planned pregnancy, lack of access to contraceptives, and insufficient knowledge. Regardless of the reason for the unwanted pregnancy, women have a right to demand pregnancy termination just like any other medical procedure, and to have it performed under the best medical conditions and covered by the state-mandated health funds (Kupot Holim).
In January 2014, following our inquiry, the government decided that the state-mandated health funds would fund pregnancy termination for women under 33 who were approved by a medical committee for termination of pregnancy. On top of this achievement, we demand: the broadening of public funding to all women; the cancellation of medical committees for termination of pregnancy so that the decision would lie solely in the hands of the women; sexual health education; and access to contraceptives for all social groups in Israel.
The project included the following activities:
A hotline supporting women who are considering whether or not to terminate their pregnancy, and providing information to women interested in pregnancy termination.
Public activities: conferences, lectures, and media activity
Writing position papers
Promoting policy change among decision makers
Surrogacy – the point at which technology and women interface
Many new inventions affect our lives in the technological age, from new cures for diseases to the expropriation of childbirth from the “traditional” mother-and-father regime. Children can be brought into the world today by sperm or egg donations and by implanting a fertilized egg in the womb of a woman carrying an embryo to whom she has no genetic connection. This is surrogacy.
On the one hand, surrogacy, and technology in general, enable many men and women to fulfill their wish to live in alternative family structures. On the other hand, when money is involved in surrogacy and in egg donation, when organs are traded in a reality of social and economic disparities, commercial surrogacy becomes an exploitation of women’s bodies. Alongside this objection, we support social arrangements which permits altruistic surrogacy free of economic power relations.
“Isha L’Isha”‘s activities on the prevention of the exploitation of women in the surrogacy process included:
Depo-Provera – a contraceptive injection
On the policy of Depo-Provera usage among women of the Ethiopian community in Israel
In the framework of “Isha L’Isha”‘s Women and Medical Technologies project, we have written a report on the prescription patterns of Depo-Provera in Israel. The report analyses the prescription policy of Depo-Provera among immigrant women from Ethiopia.
The mapping research consisted of two sections. The first included the responses of relevant authorities regarding the method’s distribution policy, while the second contained testimonies registered during interviews with women of Ethiopian origin who have used this contraceptive or are still using it.
Any discussion of contraceptive methods calls for an examination of the triangular relationship between women, the state, and the contraceptives in question. This discussion raises many questions about women’s health and freedom of choice, specifically highlighting the dissimilarities in treatment given to women from different communities and economic status. The report discusses these questions with the intention of raising public awareness to the issue, and taking steps to identify the political patterns behind the decisions that are made in the context of women’s health services. These include unique and large-scale usage patterns in the designated administration of the contraceptive to women in a specific community – in this case, the Ethiopian community in Israel. The report concludes with recommendations for policy changes regarding the use of this birth control method.
Egg donation – research action 2009-2010
During 2009 and 2010 “Isha L’Isha” conducted a research action examining different approaches to egg donation. The research was based on a series of interviews with men and women who were connected to the issue in different ways – medical experts, ethics and religion experts, lawmakers, and women who were personally exposed to it as fertility patients or egg donors.
The goal of this research was to map the needs of the different sides in this procedure, attempting to create a dialog between all the women and men who cross paths in the process of egg donation. This approach stems from the recognition that ethical procedures of organ and tissue donations can only exist in a society with an infrastructure of values such as mutual responsibility and respect. In our attempt to create this infrastructure of values, we find it important to promote a public debate on this issue in a way that allows for a sincere discussion of the social implications of the donating process.
Thinking about egg donation? An information campaign about egg donation
Egg donation is a procedure in which eggs are retrieved from a woman’s body to perform artificial insemination in another woman’s body, or to conduct genetic research. The egg donor undergoes intensive treatments including daily hormone injections before the eggs are retrieved from her body under sedation. The hormonal treatment and retrieval process have side effects and numerous risks. In fact, this process is not a donation but rather a sale of eggs, and fertility clinics, research institutes, and pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money using the eggs. In Israel, this procedure is not statutory or regulated yet, and women who sell their eggs are vulnerable to exploitation.