Petitioning Supreme Court to Void New Law Conditioning Child Allowance Payments on Obtaining Health Immunization Shots

HCJ 7245/10 Adalah v. Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs

On 12 September 2011, the Supreme Court of Israel issued an “order to show cause” demanding that the state explain by December 2011 why it should not cancel Amendment no.113 to the National Insurance Law. This new law enacted in 2010 stipulates that if a child does not receive vaccinations recommended by the Ministry of Health, his or her state-funded child allowance payments will be cut by 60%.

The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher on 7 October 2010 on behalf of ten Arab Bedouin women citizens of Israel living in the Negev (Naqab), the chairmen of local committees of three unrecognized villages, the Yasmin al-Naqab Health Organization, Ma’an - The Forum of Arab Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Naqab, and Mu’assasat Hadanat El-Nasra Association. After the petition was filed, the government was forced to postpone implementation of the law, which was supposed to come into force on 15 December 2010. To date, the law has still not been implemented.

Adalah argued on behalf of the petitioners that the new amendment will primarily harm thousands of Arab Bedouin children, citizens of Israel, who live in unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab. According to Health Ministry data, the percentage of children who are not immunized is significantly higher in these villages in comparison with other children in Israel. One of the main reasons for this disparity is the lack of accessible mother and child health clinics in these villages.

Attorney Zaher argued before the court at a hearing held on 12 September 2011 that the Knesset had enacted the law without first studying its impact. The drafters of the law did not check the percentage of children who do not receive vaccinations or why they do not do so, or what are the possible means of compelling them to do so in the future. She emphasized that the Ministry of Health did not develop the necessary infrastructure to allow the children’s parents to get their children immunized, for example by establishing clinics for that purpose or by raising awareness about the importance of the vaccination among parents.

As Adalah emphasized, the petitioners are well-aware that the vaccinations are in the children’s best interest, and indeed have asked the state authorities to take positive measures to promote children’s health and encourage immunization. However, the new amendment stands merely to increase the incidence of poverty among children who are already poor.

The National Insurance Law and prior Supreme Court decisions state explicitly that child allowances belong to the children, even if their parents actually receive these payments. The law also states that child allowances will be paid without connection to where or with which parent the child is living. Distinguishing between a child who receives vaccinations and a child who does not harms the principle of equality.

Case Citation: HCJ 7245/10, Adalah v. Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs (case pending)

The Petition (Hebrew)

Earlier updates:
In September 2011, the Supreme Court demanded that the state explain by December 2011 why it should not cancel Amendment no. 113

Adalah filed the initial petition on 7 October 2010.