Today the Polish public was shocked.
Even though Polish abortion laws were already some of the strictest in the EU, the Law and Justice Party-controlled Constitutional Tribunal ruled that aborting a pregnancy, even in the case of the foetus being seriously and lethally malformed, violates the articles on the human rights, freedom, and dignity of the constitution of the Republic of Poland.
The ruling was announced by the chair of the Constitutional Tribunal, Julia Przyłębska. The motion for the law to be examined by the Tribunal was made by a group of Polish MPs from the Law and Justice, Confederation, and Polish People’s Party-Kukiz’15 parties in 2019.
Today’s ruling will have a catastrophic effect on the quality of life and medical care of Polish families. Regardless of the damage and state of the foetus, the pregnancy will be forced to continue until a miscarriage or other natural conclusion; even in the case of the foetus being diagnosed to be unable to survive birth or to die shortly afterwards.
This sentences pregnant persons to incredible mental and physical suffering. Fear, several months of mourning in situations where the unviable foetus is forced to remain in the womb until natural birth, births which end only in watching a child die in agony before a funeral everyone knew was coming.
This new law will only create new forms of suffering. Doctors may start to refuse to even diagnose the state of pregnancies in fear that any negative diagnosis may lead to an illegal termination of pregnancy. Access to full modern diagnostics and medical care for parent and foetus will likely be severely affected or even completely removed. Children with problems that can be easily treated or solved by medical care and surgeries in-utero will receive no such care, due to the risk of accidentally inducing a miscarriage during the procedure. Additionally, this lack of information about the pregnancy will result in even more unnecessary stress for women.
Let us remember that before this ruling, abortion according to Polish law was only legal in three cases:
1) the pregnancy is a risk to the life or health of the pregnant person
2) prenatal or other diagnostics indicate a large likelihood of heavy and irreparable damage to the foetus or an untreatable disease endangering its life
3) there is reasonable concern that the pregnancy has come about due to a criminal act (Dz.U.1993.17.78 – Ustawa z dnia 7 stycznia 1993 r. o planowaniu rodziny, ochronie płodu ludzkiego i warunkach dopuszczalności przerywania ciąży).
Even though up until today abortion was legal only in these three aforementioned cases, those who were legally entitled to the procedure were met with intense opposition and even denial of the procedure. This violation of their rights was unfortunately facilitated by the collusion of the ruling Law and Justice Party and the Catholic Church, as well as both institutions’ flirtations with nationalist circles.
In an atmosphere of many-sided pressure and stigmatization, many doctors feared to offer any advice or carry out abortions, while others proudly announced their denial of lawful care for their patients for the benefit of their political image in the eyes of the nationalist Catholic government.
The timing of this ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal coinciding with the tightening of the public health regime and the placing of most of Poland under red zones due to the ongoing pandemic is not accidental. Restrictions put on public gatherings has removed the danger of protests and public backlash against this ruling such as those back in 2016 when a similar limitation of abortion rights was proposed by the incumbent government, when hundreds of thousands of protesters walked out into the streets.
Women have had their right to self-determination taken away and their voices have been ignored. But we are not folding our umbrellas!
Dziewuchy Berlin has called a protest action today (Saturday, 24 October) at 3pm in front of the Polnisches Institut (Burgstraße 27). The LINKE Berlin Internationals fully support this protest and urge everyone to take part