(VINnews Editorial) – Walk into any given hospital, and you can ask that the doctor or Physician’s Assistant that would be seeing you – be of the same gender as you are. A man can request a man. A woman can request a woman. It is a basic right. And it is a right that makes sense.
Unfortunately, however, this is not the case for Orthodox Jewish women who wish to maintain their modesty in an ambulance. Hatzolah, an otherwise wonderful and remarkable organization, fought vigorously against allowing Ezras Nashim, currently a Basic Life Support Agency, to become an ambulance organization.
And that is quite sad.
This past Tuesday night, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City (REMSCO) denied the group’s application with a 12-7 vote. There were five abstentions and two members were absent. There were a number of members of REMSCO that are on Hatzolah who were asked to recuse themselves from ruling. They didn’t.
Prior to this, Ezras Nashim had approached Hatzolah to become members and to be dispatched for the women who enter into labor. Hatzolah refused. The refusal of Hatzola to accommodate requests for tznius is particularly sad.
The legal reality is that a hospital can even discriminate against men under such circumstances and only hire female nurses when it comes to job openings in their delivery room. It is called Bone Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) and both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act allow for a BFOQ defense.
And so we have the absurd reality that American law allows for more modesty than do those that have protested against Ezras Nashim’s application.
How could it be that a Torah organization is fighting against a legitimate desire for women to maintain their modesty? Is Hatzolah so powerful an entity that they can convince Rabbis to come out against the opinion of the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky and against the opinions of Dayan Vosner zt”l and Rav Ovadiah Yoseph?
In Israel, the situation is exactly the opposite. It is the Hatzolah organization is the one that is supportive of female EMTs to deal with childbirth and areas of modesty.
It is utterly mind-boggling that a basic and fundamental right of maintaining Tznius standards has been entirely negated by Hatzolah and the Rabbis who have signed on to it.
The Torah is diametrically opposed to a breach of Tznius such as this when an alternative is available. To deny that alternative the right to exist is just wrong.
There is no legitimate reason either in Halacha or in practicality for Hatzolah or anyone else to oppose this opportunity for an upgrade in Tznius. It is a right that women have in any hospital, why deny it to Orthodox Jewish women who wish to maintain their tznius?
And please, please do not respond with the “response time” issue. Labor is long. We are talking Boro Park to Boro Park and then brought to Maimonides. True, by definition – Ezras Nashim will have a lower response time than Hatzolah, but it will not make that much of a difference when it comes to deliveries in Boro Park. Check the facts. Ezras Nashim will be no slower than any other non Hatzolah ambulance.
There is no question that eventually this bizarre reality will be reversed and that Ezras Nashim will take its rightful place as an ambulance company. We wish that it will happen without any Chillul Hashem. The ideal situation, of course, is to allow Ezras Nashim to join with Hatzolah and have Hatzolah transport for them. This is what needs to happen and the sooner it does, the better off we will all be.