Every day we respond to emails, Facebook inquiries and phone calls from people asking about the possibility of having an abortion in neighboring Germany, which permits terminations up to 14 weeks. We are activists of Ciocia Basia (Aunt Barbara), an informal, Berlin-based feminist collective which helps people with unwanted pregnancies access safe and legal procedures in the country. We provide information on abortion options, make appointments at the clinics, offer translation services, find accommodation at volunteers’ homes, and help financially. Over the last five years, virtually every week several Polish women and other people come to Berlin to terminate pregnancies, having found us on the internet.
The outbreak of the pandemic made access to abortion abroad more difficult but not impossible. It taught us how to collectively practice creative problem solving: looking for exemptions for border crossers (abortion as medical procedure that cannot be postponed counts as one of them), inventing and often reinventing ways to avoid mandatory quarantine in the country of departure and arrival, and finding the safest travel routes.
When the borders closed, Ciocia Basa continued its work. In fact, we have never been so busy, seeing a dramatic increase in calls for support from people affected economically by the crisis, anxious about the future or scared by parliamentary debates on abortion. The recent developments in Poland will translate into even more work. But We are ready to accommodate all people with unwanted pregnancies affected the decision of the “Constitutional Tribunal” in Poland.
And we are not alone in this. Ciocia Basia is but one of many abortion support groups of this kind active in Europe that offer help to people from countries where abortion is barely possible. In the Netherlands, where abortion on demand is accessible up to 22 weeks, the Abortion Network Amsterdam is in existence. In the UK, which allows termination up to 24 weeks, one can turn to the registered charity Abortion Support Network and be sure to receive all possible help. No questions asked, our only objective is to provide access to abortions for people who need them.
In December 2019, all groups joined ranks with the Polish collectives Kobiety w Sieci and Abortion Dream Team, and the online medical service Women Help Women, to form the first pan-European initiative called Abortion Without Borders that comprehensively responds to demands from women in unwanted pregnancies in Poland and beyond. In recent weeks new support groups began to emerge: Ciocia Wienia in Austria, or Ciocia Czesia in Czech Republic.
The networks of support structured around reproductive justice for people in Poland make sure that in spite of the anti-abortion laws, termination of pregnancy is and will be an option. It is not the law but practical activism and solidarity that create the reality of abortion in Poland.
You can support Ciocia Basia by making a donation here