Israel prepares for return of sexually abused kidnapped women

Science and Health

The Welfare Ministry, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Health Ministry are developing a unique program to support kidnapped Israeli women who may return from Hamas captivity pregnant. This initiative came in response to sexual abuse perpetrated by Hamas terrorists. Walla News reported on Wednesday that the ministry aims to integrate existing support systems for sustained sexual abuse victims, particularly those facing unplanned pregnancies. The program will address both the advanced and early stages of pregnancy, offering comprehensive medical and psychological care. Women will have the option to either terminate the pregnancy or continue it, based on their choice.

Initially, the returnees will be taken to hospitals, following the precedent set by the first case of kidnapped women. Preparations at Wolfson Hospital in Holon are already underway for receiving kidnapped women suspected of enduring sexual abuse. In an acute care facility within the hospital, both the physical condition of the woman and the developmental status of the fetus will be closely monitored.

Extensive trauma therapy

The subsequent phase involves extensive trauma therapy, a process anticipated to be lengthy. This phase will also involve crucial decisions regarding the continuation of the pregnancy. Participation in emotional or psychological counseling is necessary, and in cases where a woman declines such treatment, social workers are instructed to maintain regular telephone contact. This approach is consistent with the treatment provided to four women who reported sexual abuse by Hamas terrorists after attending the Nova party.

Daily Mail writes about four female hostages who are still being held in Gaza (credit: DAILY MAIL)

Kidnapped women returning in a state of pregnancy will face a critical decision: whether to keep the fetus or to consider abortion, if still feasible. The ministry’s professionals will debate whether it is appropriate to bypass the usual abortion committee proceedings in such cases, offering an expedited process compared to other women seeking pregnancy termination. Should a woman choose to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the child, she will be provided with extensive psychological, legal, and financial support to ensure her well-being.

During a recent Knesset session, Chen Almog Goldstein, who was held captive for over 50 days, shared distressing observations. She revealed that many young women still in Gaza are not menstruating. “There are girls in captivity who haven’t had a period for a long time. Maybe what we need to pray for is that their bodies are protecting them, preventing pregnancy from rape,” she expressed.

Almog Goldstein also raised concerns at a Knesset meeting dedicated to sexual and gender violence in warfare. She speculated whether the menstrual cycles of these captive girls were being disrupted as a bodily defense mechanism or due to the harsh conditions of their captivity.

Aviva Sigal, another returnee from over 50 days of Hamas captivity, spoke of the dehumanizing treatment they endured. “The terrorists give them demeaning clothing, turning the girls into their dolls, mere puppets on strings to be manipulated at will. It’s hard to fathom that they are still there, enduring unimaginable suffering. We experienced abuse in every conceivable way, and they are still in those dire conditions, barely surviving. I feel like I am still there; my body is there. The boys, too, suffer abuse, similar to what the girls endure, though they do not face the risk of pregnancy. They, too, are treated like puppets on strings.”

Terrorism can come in several forms, including sexual assault and rape motivated by nationalism. Pictured: The scene of Hamas’s October 7 massacre at the Supernova music festival. (credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)

Raped in captivity

Earlier this month, Maariv exclusicely revealed that the Israeli medical community, usually reluctant to consider such scenarios, has recently actively been preparing for the appalling possibility of several female hostages who were raped in captivity and subsequently become pregnant.

According to sources who spoke with Maariv, there have been comprehensive discussions in hospitals across the country about preparing for the return of Israeli hostages who have been sexually assaulted by Hamas terrorists and are currently at different stages of pregnancy.

Israeli law permits abortions, granting women the autonomy to decide their course of action. However, the state is now faced with the daunting task of addressing the enduring trauma that will affect the victims and their families for a lifetime.

Unlike many countries where abortion is prohibited or allowed only up to the 23rd week of pregnancy, Israeli law permits abortions up to the moment of birth. Abortions can be authorized by a regular termination committee up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Beyond this period, terminations are overseen by a special committee of senior doctors, which also consider cases of fetuses with congenital disabilities, the mother’s mental health, or even pregnancies resulting from rape. In Israel, both committees consistently approve abortions in rape cases.

In the early stages of pregnancy, abortions are carried out using Cytotec pills, which cause the opening and contraction of the cervix and the expulsion of the pregnancy, and Mifepristone, which inhibits the action of the hormone progesterone necessary for pregnancy development. However, as time passes, there is increasing concern that captives will have to undergo a late termination of pregnancy, in which drugs are used to stop the fetus’s heart activity with a needle. The later the abortion is performed, the higher the medical risk to the mother and her chances of future pregnancies.

Medics prepare for scenario

Teams of gynecologists in medical centers nationwide have already appointed professionals to prepare for such a catastrophic scenario. The doctors emphasized that the medical aspect is based on established protocols for pregnancy termination. However, Israel must now grapple with the most challenging element: the severe psychological impact on a captive woman who has conceived.

“The human brain struggles to comprehend the situation of a captive in captivity who must deal not only with the pregnancy but also with the fact that it was conceived through the brutal rape by a murderous terrorist,” said Prof. Tal Biron-Shental the chair and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

“Performing an abortion is a procedure we are all familiar with and skilled in. However, the primary challenge the state must now address is the horrific and daunting psychological trauma. A pregnant woman, feeling fetal movements and with a visibly growing belly, naturally attaches to the fetus.