Polish women still face countless obstacles when trying to access safe, legal abortion
(PRESS RELEASE) By a vote of 352-58, the Polish Parliament today rejected a draft measure which would have banned abortion in all circumstances and criminalized women who obtained abortion services. Today’s vote comes after a massive public outcry over the measure, with millions of people protesting the proposed ban in countries around the world.
Said Leah Hoctor, Regional Director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The rejection of this abortion ban is a historic victory, but the reality is women in Poland still face far too many obstacles when they need an abortion. When a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she has a right to safe and high-quality care, not a web of legal restrictions and doctors refusing care.
“The long-standing battle for women’s reproductive rights in Poland continues and the Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to stand with them in their fight for dignity and justice.”
In spite of the public outcry, the Polish government has announced that it will consider introducing new restrictions to what is already a highly restrictive legal regime.
Polish women already face significant obstacles when they need abortion services, as Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is legal only in very limited and restrictive circumstances: when the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the woman, when there is a high probability of a severe and irreversible fetal impairment, abortion is permitted until the fetus reaches viability, and when the pregnancy results from a crime, abortion is permitted during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in all situations beyond these three circumstances and doctors or anyone else who helps a woman to obtain an abortion outside of the scope of the law is liable to a three-year prison sentence.
Abortion access in the country under these circumstances is also incredibly limited. There are entire regions of Poland where women who are eligible for legal abortion are unable to find a doctor or hospital willing to perform an abortion under the law. In multiple cases, including those filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights jointly with Polish organizations, the European Court of Human Rights has determined that the inaccessibility of and obstruction of access to legal abortion services violate the human rights of Polish women.