Leading Polish activists held a civil hearing at the Polish parliament yesterday on the rising number of Polish women who are traveling abroad to obtain access to abortion. Doctors from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Britain who regularly treat Polish women also attended the meeting. A doctor’s written notice authorizing an abortion procedure is required to obtain an abortion in Poland, where strict abortion laws only allow abortion in cases of a threat to a woman’s life or health, severe and permanent handicaps of the fetus, and rape or incest. The Catholic Church was influential in a 1993 compromise that led to Poland’s current abortion laws.
Wanda Nowicka, Director of Poland’s Federation for Women and Family Planning, told lawmakers that despite official records indicating only several hundred abortions are procured in Poland each year “that on average 150,000 abortions are performed per year…Of this number, some 10-15 percent of abortions are performed abroad and this number is definitely growing,” according to Reuters. More Polish women are resorting to so-called “abortion tourism” because underground abortions in Poland are unsafe and the social stigma associated with having an abortion is large in Poland.
According to a 2005 poll on European values, Poland was the only country of the ten polled where the majority of respondents oppose abortion, reported the Warsaw Business Journal.
In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of a Polish woman who was denied an abortion, even though her health was jeopardized by the pregnancy. The court ruling had no effect on Poland’s strict abortion laws, but the country was ordered to pay the woman, Alicia Tysiac, $52,000 in damages.