Poland’s Restrictive Abortion Laws Criticized by UN Committee

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently criticized Poland’s strict abortion laws. According to Kaisernetwork, Poland’s laws “puts women’s lives at risk by encouraging them to seek illegal abortions, sometimes from untrained practitioners.” Women on Waves, the Dutch organization that traveled to Portugal last year to bring attention to the nation’s punitive abortion policies, estimates that 200,000 illegal abortions are conducted in Poland every year.

Abortion restrictions were reinstituted in Poland in the early 1990s after decades during which abortion on demand was the policy in the country. Currently, abortion is illegal in Poland except in cases of rape, incest, when the fetus is deformed, or when the woman’s life is in danger and doctors face up to three years in jail for performing illegal abortions. Poland’s Democratic Left Alliance is sponsoring a bill that will allow women to have abortions up to their 12th week of pregnancy, however no date has been set for the parliament to discuss the bill, reports Reuters.

Some conservative groups in Poland such as the Polish League of Families, a Catholic opposition party, are working to completely outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, several European women’s organizations are calling for a major mobilization to protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Europe. The Women’s World March will held in Marseille, France, in May 2005 to bring attention to the increasing threats made by anti-abortion lobbies in Europe, including the influence of the Catholic Church and conservative parties in European parliaments, to restrict abortion rights.

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Kaisernetwork 11/10/04; United Press International 11/9/04; Reuters 11/9/04; Human Rights Committee of Poland 10/28/04

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