Until 1977, only those abortions performed on medical grounds were legal, although this restriction was not enforced in practice and abortions were freely obtainable. In 1977, the law was liberalized to allow abortion to avert 'grave harm to the woman or her children owing to difficult family or social circumstances'.

However, in response to ultra-Orthodox pressure, the law was amended in 1979, and the social indication was rescinded.

The current regulations permit the medical committees in 28 hospitals throughout the country to approve an abortion request if at least one of the following four grounds applies:
  • the woman is under 17 (the legal age of marriage) or over 40
  • the pregnancy results from a criminal act (rape or incest) or from an out-of-wedlock relationship
  • there is suspected physical or mental malformation of the foetus, and
  • continuation of the pregnancy may endanger the woman's health or life

Given the widespread use of abortion in the former Soviet Union it was predicted that the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s would significantly increase the demand for abortion. This did not occur however, and abortion rates in Israel actually declined.

Women of Russian origin did register abortion rates 70 percent higher than Israeli-born women, but this was offset by a decline in the abortion rate among Israeli women.