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Discrimination Before Birth

Discrimination Before Birth

On 8 January 2004, M. arrived at a hospital where it was confirmed that the child she had been pregnant with for 8 months was lifeless. At the hospital she was sent for physical and mental medical treatment. Recently, her mental state deteriorated and she was sent to the closed psychiatric ward at Geha hospital in Israel.

M. was born in Kenya and was recognized as a resident by the Interior Ministry in February 2003, in light of her marriage to an Israeli citizen. Even so, the National Insurance Institute (NII) refused to recognize her citizenship and to register her in the health file, which would guarantee her National Health Insurance.

Since February 2003 and for the next year M. and her husband turned to the NII, which claimed that the reason behind the refusal to register her was her husband's monetary debt. In October of 2003 M. turned to the "Health Rights of Residents of Israel" project jointly operated by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Adva Center, due to her pregnancy and need of medical examinations. The project then demanded from the NII that it register M., being that she is an autonomous person whose right to health cannot be intertwined with her husband's debt. The NII responded- as opposed to what it had said to M.- that the delay in registration emanated from an improper filing of certain forms and committed itself to registering her as soon as the files were submitted properly.

On 8 January 2004, M.'s husband informed the project, which runs a hotline, about the tragic incident in which she had lost her child, and that due to the labor strikes at the NII (which lasted for an extended period) she was still not recognized, in spite of the project's intervention. Repeated appeals to the NII went unanswered and simultaneously M.'s status deteriorated and she was placed in the closed unit at the psychiatric hospital. Only following the intervention of the project and after it involved Smadar Peled, a journalist from Israeli Channel 2, was M. recognized at the NII and is now entitled to her rights, as every other citizen, one year after she became a citizen.

For over a year, due to the legal waiting period and an additional six months of bureaucratic delays related to the NII, M. and her unborn child did not receive proper medical care, since she was not insured by the National Health Insurance bill. M.'s difficult economic situation prevented her from acquiring medical treatment.

M.'s case represents the cases of many people who have turned to the "Health Rights of Residents of Israel" project, and which indicate the difficulty for the "simple citizen" to access the public systems. It is quite unfortunate that without the intervention of human rights groups and the media, in many cases the resident is unable to access his or her basic rights.

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