‘Brainwash’ abortion group targets UK

By Marcus Dysch, October 31, 2013

An Israeli anti-abortion group accused of “brainwashing” and driving girls away from their families is now targeting British women.

Efrat, a deeply controversial organisation in Israel, has taken a stall at Sunday’s Jewish Living Expo at Wembley Stadium.

And its founder, Dr Eli Schussheim, has told the JC that he is coming to “raise awareness and funds”.

Israeli modern Orthodox Rabbi Benny Lau in January accused Efrat of acting “irresponsibly” and using “extreme” language to pressure pregnant girls.

Critics claim it discourages them from telling their parents about their situation while offering financial incentives to reconsider a decision to have an abortion.

In the most serious case, teenager Raz Atias was killed by police last year while they were trying to thwart a suicide pact between him and his pregnant girlfriend.

The girl’s sister later said that she felt that Efrat volunteers had brainwashed her into not discussing her pregnancy with her parents.

An undercover report in Israel in 2012 filmed an Efrat social worker telling a girl not to inform her parents that she was pregnant. She told her: “You have loads of time to tell, if you decide to continue with the pregnancy.

“Keep it to yourself in the meantime, ok? They [your parents] won’t see it on you even for another four to five months.”

Speaking to the JC, Dr Schussheim denied any involvement in either case and claimed the death of Mr Atias “had a positive impact”. He said: “We received a huge amount of publicity, raising the profile of our organisation.”

Efrat claims it has helped avert 50,000 potential terminations in Israel in the past 30 years.

Fertility expert Professor Lord Robert Winston, who will speak at the Expo, said he was unaware of Efrat’s work which “carries no weight in Britain”.

Dr Schussheim defended the organisation’s tactics: “When the child is born, we send to her home all she needs in the first couple of days — a bed, pram, clothes, and every month the family receives food, diapers and all the other basic provisions until the baby is two.

“I’ve never told a woman not to have an abortion. We allow the woman to do whatever she wants to do. We are the most liberal organisation there is.”

Maidenhead Synagogue’s Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: “It is right for women to consider all options when thinking about abortion, but it is wrong for them to be pressurised… Some of Efrat’s track record indicates they have an agenda that may not be in the woman’s best interests and screams out ‘handle with care’.”

Last updated: 12:41pm, October 31 2013