Free medical abortions for women with fetal indications in Poland

25-10-2020 for immediate release

On October 22, 2020, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that the people of Poland will no longer be able to legally end their pregnancies in cases of severe fetal malformations. This decision places even greater limitations on Poland’s already strict abortion laws. In response, Women on Web will ensure that Polish women with fetal indications are able to obtain abortion pills for free, in an effort to protect their human rights.

The diagnoses of severe fetal malformations are usually made in the second trimester of a pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, the medicines, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, are also safe to use to end pregnancies in the second trimester. Women on Web’s medical staff will provide close supervision to any women who need this service. Women on Web already supports people with unwanted pregnancies in the first trimester for all reasons.

In October 2018, Women on Web submitted an Amicus Curiae, written by Professor Joanna N. Erdman and Professor Rebecca J. Cook, to the Polish Constitutional Court. The opinion describes the consensus in international human rights law that:

    • The criminalization of abortion contributes to unsafe abortion, adversely impacts vulnerable and marginalized women, and inherently limits the rights of women to physical and psychological integrity, to dignity and worth as human beings, and to be free from all forms of discrimination. International human rights law supports the progressive decriminalization of abortion to protect the lives and health of women and to improve their quality of life.
    • Given that any state action on abortion impacts on the human rights of women, international law sets limits on the state power to criminalize abortion based on principles of non-arbitrariness and proportionality.
    • To ensure criminal abortion laws are non-arbitrary and proportionate, international human rights law requires as a minimum the decriminalization of abortion on the ground of risk of serious fetal malformation, and procedural protections to ensure safe and respectful access to services under this ground to the full extent of the law.

So far, the Polish government has systematically ignored the decisions of international institutions. Governing bodies such as the European Union, European Court of Human Rights, European Court of Justice, and the Council of Europe, have called on Poland to immediately grant women access to legal abortion care and services. There are severe international concerns that Poland’s current far-right government has totally undermined the rule of law. The European Court of justice even issued an injunction against the implementation of Poland's new law on the Supreme Court, freezing any changes to the existing system. 

The decision of the Constitutional Tribunal is a showcase for the actual state of the rule of law in Poland. This new ruling will nearly ban all abortions in Poland, as approximately 98% of all legal abortions performed in 2019 were done so under the fetal indications clause. 

Women on Web, however, will continue to serve the needs of pregnant individuals in Poland and fight against Poland’s violation of its constituents’ human rights. 

"We cannot just stand by these severe human rights violations. Therefore, starting today, in addition to people with unwanted pregnancies in the first trimester, Polish women who are pregnant with severe fetal malformations and wish to end their pregnancies can reach out to Women on Web to receive medical abortions."  -Dr Rebecca Gomperts, Director of Women on Web

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