Tysiąc v. Poland: Ensuring Effective Access to Legal Abortion

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Alicja Tysiąc, a Polish woman, was suffering from severe myopia. Pregnant for the third time, she consulted three ophthalmologists who concluded that carrying the pregnancy to term constituted a serious risk to her eyesight. While they all refused to issue a referral for abortion, which is required under Polish law, a general practitioner finally provided Ms.Tysiąc with such a document. However, the head of gynecology and obstetrics department of a clinic in Warsaw declined to terminate the pregnancy stating that there were no medical grounds for a therapeutic abortion. No procedures were available to review the doctor’s decision and to provide Ms. Tysiąc with a timely abortion. Ms. Tysiąc had no option but to carry her pregnancy to term. After the delivery her eyesight seriously deteriorated, qualifying her as a significantly disabled person under Poland’s social welfare system.