There is not much that you can learn from the political and media debates about the reality of abortion in Poland. The restrictive anti-abortion law has been in place since 1993 and there have been constant attempts to strengthen it. Three debates took place in the last months alone.
With the Covid-19 related lockdown, severe restrictions on access to health care, travelling and a growing economic precarity of many took place in the country. Yet in April 2020, the Polish parliament discussed a Stop Abortion bill. If passed, the bill would prohibit abortion in case of fetal abnormality. That is one of the three current exceptions, legally permitted for abortion in Poland. The others being rape and danger to a pregnant person’s life and health.
This April, as a result of protests performed despite serious restrictions, the bill was not passed, but sent back for a review to a parliamentary commission. Nevertheless a decision to further restrict access to legal abortion was already taken by parliament in May 2020. Previously, a doctor refusing to perform an abortion on grounds of the conscience clause, (that is citing conflicting religious or moral beliefs) was obliged to direct the pregnant person to another facility or medical expert willing to perform the procedure. But the new law passed, allows the doctor to withhold such information.
But this was not enough. On 22.10.2020 the Polish “Constitutional Tribunal” decided that the malformation clause enabling abortion is “unconstitutional”. In fact, terminations when the fetus is malformed account for around 95% of abortions, an estimated 1000 procedures a year. This decision amounts, therefore, to an almost total ban on abortion and further contributes to its (already immense) stigmatization.
The politicians in Poland think that they now have control over our bodies. If they only knew that every day, hundreds of people with unwanted pregnancies in Poland are taking matters into their own hands and getting abortions regardless of the media and political debates and in spite of the restrictive laws. This is the reality of abortion in Poland.
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.
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