Yesterday, the highest court in Poland, the constitutional tribunal, ruled that obtaining abortions for fetal abnormalities violates the Polish Constitution, thus tightening abortion restrictions in one of the strictest countries on abortion in Europe.
The tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that abortions for severe fetal impairment allow “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.” The Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, and therefore, Przylebska added that abortion based on the fetus’ health equates to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination”.
This ruling comes in the context of a country that already has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, and a populist government that has been pursuing moves like this for months. Moreover, 98% of abortions in Poland are conducted due to fetal defects. Now, abortions are only legal for cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. Therefore, many pregnant people will have to carry a child that they know will not or may not survive childbirth.
Women’s and human rights activists everywhere are speaking out against the ruling, and protests are occurring across Poland. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called Thursday a “sad day for women’s rights” and tweeted that “Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates Human Rights…Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”
Agnieszka Kubal, a sociology and human rights scholar at University College London, stated “There is an effective ban on abortion in Poland now…This has to be read in the context of the wider right-wing discourse on abortion in Poland, that women cannot be trusted with the right to choose.” This lack of trust ultimately causes thousands of Polish women to travel abroad or seek abortions illegally, putting them in increased danger and risk.
Protests this week in Warsaw were met with pepper spray and police violence. In Łódź, a “funeral for women’s rights” was planned for Friday evening, while protesters planned to protest in Warsaw again. A Facebook protest event organized in the city of Gdańsk this weekend stated that “In a few days, hell for women will begin in this country” and participants were encouraged to block major traffic intersections.
Sources: The New York Times 10/22/20, CNN 10/22/20, The Guardian 10/23/20