We are deeply concerned by relentless attempts to roll back sexual and reproductive rights in Poland. On 15 and 16 April Poland’s Parliament will again debate two draft bills that would severely limit access to safe abortion care and would criminalize the provision of sexuality education. If enacted into law these bills would place women’s and adolescents’ health and well-being at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations.
We call on Members of Poland’s Parliament to reject these regressive legislative proposals. Under international human rights law measures that undermine or restrict existing rights are not permitted and violate the obligations of states to ensure ever greater protection of human rights.
The first draft bill known as “Stop Abortion” seeks to further limit the already highly restricted access to abortion in Poland. Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Abortion is only permitted to safeguard the life or health of women, in situations of severe or fatal foetal impairment or where the pregnancy results from rape or another criminal act. Even in those situations in which abortion is legal, multiple barriers combine to severely limit access to care in practice. As a result, most women in Poland who need abortion care travel to other jurisdictions to access safe and legal care or obtain abortion medication from medical professionals in other countries. Limitations on travel and transport imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic now compound the negative impacts of Poland’s highly restrictive law and will increase the threats to women’s health and well-being.
The second draft bill known as “Stop Pedophilia” seeks to introduce criminal penalties for providing any form of sexuality education and evidenced-based information on sexual and reproductive health and rights to adolescents. Poland already does not provide comprehensive sexuality education as required by international human rights and the bill will expose adolescents to risks to their health and make them vulnerable to exploitation.
In recent years there have been repeated attacks on reproductive rights in Poland and multiple attempts have been made to introduce total or near total bans on abortion. The government has in the past backed down from rolling back reproductive rights in the face of massive public protests, such as the Black Protests in 2016. However, in the context of restrictions on movement imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic such public protests against these bills cannot take place. We express our solidarity with Polish civil society during this difficult time.
Prohibiting access to safe, legal abortion care and criminalizing the provision of sexuality education violate a number of human rights enshrined in international law, including the rights to life, health, non-discrimination and equality, privacy, information, education, and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Numerous international human rights mechanisms have repeatedly called on Poland to reform its abortion law to ensure access to safe and legal abortion and to remove all barriers to abortion care. They have also called on Poland to provide mandatory, age-appropriate, evidence-based and scientifically accurate comprehensive sexuality education across the education system.
Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland Abortion Support Network AIDOS, Associazione italiana donne per lo sviluppo, Italy AIED – Associazione Italiana per l’Educazione Demografica, Italy Alliance for Choice, Northern Ireland Amnesty International an.schläge Asia Safe Abortion Partnership ASPEKT, Slovakia Associação para o Planeamento da Família, Portugal Association Défense de la Démocratie en Pologne Association for Human Rights and Civic Participation PaRiter, Croatia Association HERA XXI, Georgia Association of Accredited Clinics for the IVE in Spain (ACAI) Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM) ASTRA Network Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud AC, Mexico Catholics for Choice Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, México Center for Civic Initiatives “Intelligence of Sumy Region”, Ukraine Center for Reproductive Rights Center for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREHPA), Nepal CESI – Center for Education, Counselling and Research, Croatia Charitable Fund All-Ukrainian League Legalife Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Ireland Community Center New Generation, Ukraine Concord Research Center for Integration of International Law in Israel Corps écrits, Belgium Creación Positiva, Spain Danish Family Planning Association Democracy Development Center, Ukraine Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) Doctors for Choice Malta Doctors for Choice UK Dziewuchy Berlin, Germany ECPI-Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, Romania European Alternatives European Women Lawyers Association Fédération des Centres de Planning Familial des Femmes Prévoyantes Socialistes, Belgium Feminism UA, Ukraine Feminist Association Unioni, Finland Feminist Fightback Femmes et Santé asbl., Belgium Femmes Prévoyantes Socialistes, Belgium Finnish League for Human Rights FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development, Norway Fondo de Aborto para la Justicia Social MARIA, Mexico Freedom of Choice/ Možnosť voľby, Slovakia Fundació Aroa, Spain Furia vzw, Belgium GenPol – Gender & Policy Insights GPES, Ukraine HERA – Health Education and Research Association from North Macedonia Hivpoint, Finland Human Rights Center ZMINA, Ukraine ILGA-Europe International Alliance of Women International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion International Commission of Jurists International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network International Women’s Health Coalition Ipas Development Foundation, India Kazakstan Association on Sexual and Reproductive Health (KMPA) Kharkiv, Centre of the Gender Culture, Ukraine Kherson oblast center «Successful Woman», Ukraine Kherson regional center “Successful women,” Ukraine KULU – Women and Development, Denmark La Voix des Femmes, Belgium Le Planning Familial, France Lleisiau Merched Cymru / Women’s Voice Wales London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign Marie Stopes International National Council of Women of Ukraine National platform for reproductive justice, Croatia National Women’s Council of Ireland NGO “FeminismUA”, Ukraine PATENT Association, HungaryPro-choice, rete italiana contraccezione e aborto, Italy Profamilia, Colombia Resistanta, Ukraine Rutgers, Netherlands safe2choose Santé Sexuelle Suisse, Switzerland Sensoa, Belgium Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Platform (SRHRP), Turkey Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition SMARTA, Ukraine Societatea de Planificare a Familiei din Moldova (SPFM)/Family Planning Association of Moldova Society for Education on Contraception and Sexuality, Romania Society Without Violence NGO, Armenia The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) The International Federation for Professionals in Abortion and Contraception (FIAPAC) The National Council of Women of Finland The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History UN Women Finland Union Women Center, Georgia University Women of Europe Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights Voice for Choice – L-għażla tagħha (Malta) Vrouwenraad, Belgium WIDE+ (Women In Development Europe+) Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways, Turkey Women on Waves, Netherlands Women on Web, Netherlands Women’s circles, Slovakia Women´s Link Worldwide, Spain Women’s Information Consultative Center, Ukraine Women’s Resource Center, Armenia Women’s Rights Foundation, Malta Women’s rights protection league “Harmony of equals”, Ukraine Zaporizhzhia charitable foundation “Unity” for the Future,” Ukraine Zhiva-Ya, Ukraine