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What Poland’s Anti-Abortion Legal guidelines Foretell about the US — The Revealer

(Picture supply: Chip Somodevilla for Getty Pictures)

Because the prospect of reversing Roe v. Wade unfolds in the US, pro-choice advocates are concurrently mobilized and despondent. That is true particularly in states which have already introduced extreme restrictions on abortion entry and wish to tighten them even additional. In these locations, journey to a different state could quickly develop into the one choice to terminate a being pregnant. That is compounded by the truth that the capability of abortion suppliers in pro-choice-majority states has not, on the entire, elevated in anticipation of a possible surge of sufferers from states where new restrictions are expected.

Watching the US reverse its authorized protections for abortion reminds us of our native nation, Poland, the place conservative politicians and spiritual leaders aligned to successfully ban abortion. We’re members of the primary era of Polish girls since 1956 whose reproductive lives have been formed by the looming chance of being pressured to hold pregnancies towards our will. What we have now witnessed in Poland supplies necessary classes for American pro-choice advocates and should foretell the place the US is heading as abortion entry dramatically declines in some elements of the nation.


Poland has a unstable historical past of abortion legal guidelines. From 1956 till 1993, as a member of the Soviet bloc, Poland assured comparatively quick access to abortion. But, for the reason that Seventies Polish Catholic organizations, supported by the Catholic Church, have lobbied to restrict that entry. In 1993, after the collapse of communism, democratic elections launched conservative Catholic events into the Polish parliament. Amid protests in main cities towards the proposed laws, they handed a invoice that considerably restricted entry to abortion, permitting for termination solely in three instances: critical danger to the mom’s life or well being; prognosis of extreme, everlasting, or deadly malformations of the fetus; or being pregnant ensuing from a felony act, comparable to rape or incest (on this case, termination was allowed solely till the twelfth week of being pregnant and a prosecutor was required to verify {that a} felony act had occurred). Professional-choice advocates organized because the Federation for Women and Family Planning (FWFP), whereas Catholic organizations continued to advocate for a full abortion ban (despite the fact that, technically, Catholic Canon legislation permits prioritizing the lifetime of the mom over the lifetime of the fetus). The invoice got here to be generally known as the “abortion compromise,” reflecting the opposing views held by Catholic and conservative politicians who wished a whole ban, and left-wing politicians who wished to take care of broader entry to abortion.

Previous to 1993, a household’s troublesome socioeconomic scenario was an appropriate purpose to terminate a being pregnant. However since 1993, this consideration was not acknowledged as reputable. Folks finishing up abortions or serving to girls entry abortions that didn’t fall inside one of many three legally-recognized exceptions confronted as much as three years in jail.

Notably, debates concerning the new abortion legislation had been held in a parliament that was dominated by male politicians, with girls holding solely 10% of the seats. As many commentators observed, the legislators weren’t curious about girls’s views on abortion and rejected requires a nationwide referendum on the matter. Ladies energetic within the opposition had been politically disempowered after the collapse of communism. So-called “girls’s points” weren’t a precedence within the dominant political agendas that centered on points perceived as more important  — primarily, the preservation of the brand new, fragile democracy, “decommunization,” and financial reforms. On the time, a big majority of Poles had been pretty supportive of the suitable to abortion. Nevertheless, their views progressively modified as conservative political and spiritual teams lobbied towards abortion within the media (of which a big proportion is influenced or managed by the Catholic Church). Catholic teachings on the topic continued to affect Polish residents by way of Catholic instruction in public colleges. In 2006, for the primary time, extra Polish folks expressed help for an abortion ban than the suitable to abortion.

In 2020, once more amid mass protests, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (equal to the Supreme Court docket in the US) issued a legally binding opinion that the prognosis of a fetus with deadly malformations isn’t constitutional grounds to terminate a being pregnant, thereby tightening already extreme restrictions. Catholic leaders celebrated this choice as a partial victory in a decades-long battle to ban abortion fully. Many Protestant churches in Poland, together with the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, the Polish Pentecostal Church, and the Baptist Church of Poland, additionally contemplate abortion a “sin” and have added their help to the ban.

(Picture supply: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock)

1,076 “authorized” abortions had been carried out in Poland in 2020 earlier than this new restriction went into place. The actual variety of being pregnant terminations is unknown. FWFP estimates it at 150 thousand yearly. Ladies resort to underground abortions, purchase abortion drugs overseas, and journey to different nations for abortion procedures. A current report estimates that 34 thousand girls from Poland accessed abortion companies overseas simply in 2021. Even those that technically qualify for a authorized abortion are inclined to choose going overseas, provided that Polish doctors and hospitals typically create unlawful crimson tape so they don’t have to terminate a being pregnant. The felony justice system additionally impedes abortion entry by delaying the method that establishes whether or not the being pregnant is the results of a felony act, which nonetheless constitutes grounds for a authorized abortion in Poland.

In September 2021, a mother of three died on account of being denied an abortion to which she had a authorized proper. Izabela (her surname was not disclosed by the media) carried a lifeless fetus in her physique for 9 days, as docs pushed by worry of breaking the brand new legislation refused to terminate the being pregnant. Izabela contracted sepsis and died. She lived a mere 40 miles from Ostrava within the Czech Republic, the place girls’s clinics advertise abortion services in Polish. In line with FWFP, this was the first publicly known case of death ensuing from the denial of abortion linked on to the brand new legislation. There are not any dependable statistics on the variety of girls who’ve died or develop into disabled within the aftermath of the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling, however there have been a number of media experiences of similar cases.


In neighboring Ukraine, abortion is extra accessible. Abortion on request is free and authorized till 12 weeks of being pregnant. Between 12 and 26 weeks, abortion can be permitted in instances of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities. Abortion drugs might be bought in Ukrainian pharmacies over-the-counter.

Entry to abortion has lately taken on new urgency for a lot of Ukrainians and Ukrainian refugees. For the reason that Russian invasion started in February, Russian troopers have sexually assaulted numerous Ukrainian girls and ladies. The fate of women in the town of Bucha – gang-raped and raped in entrance of kids – shocked the world. Anticipating that among the refugees coming into Poland would have been raped, be pregnant and needing abortion, Polish pro-choice organizations introduced this to the eye of the Polish authorities and appealed for higher availability of care and an acknowledgement that abortions in Poland are authorized for raped girls. These voices had been ignored. Consequently, some girls who grew to become pregnant after Russian troopers raped them chose to stay in Ukraine, relatively than flee to security from the battle, so they might terminate the pregnancies.

Between March 1 and April 20, 250 Ukrainian women who fled to Poland sought assist accessing abortions from Polish pro-choice organizations. A few of them had been capable of purchase abortion drugs; different had been assisted with journey to Western Europe the place abortion entry is extra available. The method is expensive and the organizations will not be capable of assist all girls who want it. As well as, Polish activists helping Ukrainian refugees achieve this at nice private danger – one in every of them, Justyna Wydrzyńska, was lately charged with illegally aiding an abortion and faces as much as three years in jail.

Polish anti-abortion activists additionally raised alarm after the Russian invasion, appropriately recognizing that undesirable pregnancies and demand for abortion enhance throughout navy battle. Probably the most infamous anti-abortion campaigner in Poland, Kaja Godek, is well-known for attacking Polish feminist and LGBTQ organizations. Godek’s basis, known as Life and Household, distributed leaflets amongst Ukrainian refugees stating that “abortion is a homicide and the worst crime.” The pamphlets inspired girls to name the police if anybody supplied them abortion companies, and featured photos of bloodied, dismembered fetuses. The leaflets didn’t point out that Polish legislation permits for terminations ensuing from rape. Feminist commentators famous that portraying abortion because the “worst crime” to girls who had simply escaped the brutality of battle performs into the palms of Russian propaganda, which continually attempts to dismiss the atrocities the Russian navy commits towards Ukrainian civilians. A current investigation performed by Gazeta Wyborcza, one of many prime Polish newspapers, revealed financial connections between a Russian oligarch near Kremlin and the Polish ultraconservative group Ordo Iuris, a close political ally of Kaja Godek.

Proof suggests that the majority Polish residents would help Ukrainian refugees’ proper to an abortion. In 2020, immediately after Poland restricted its abortion entry additional, 66% of Polish citizens agreed that girls ought to have the suitable to abortion on demand for as much as 12 weeks into the being pregnant. This implies that the overwhelming majority of Polish residents, together with these figuring out as Catholic, could be sympathetic in the direction of Ukrainian girls searching for abortions within the aftermath of the Russian invasion. Though robust identification with Catholicism is usually believed to be related to anti-abortion views, Joanna Krotofil’s current analysis exhibits that younger Catholic moms don’t unanimously help the abortion ban. For almost all of Catholic girls in Poland, abortion is a fancy moral subject that they don’t imagine ought to be regulated by a universally relevant, restrictive legislation. These girls consider the wants of different kids within the household, well being situations of pregnant girls (together with psychological well being), and the dearth of systemic help for folks elevating disabled kids when occupied with abortion. They conclude that girls ought to have a selection.


The Russian invasion on Ukraine and the ensuing exodus of refugees highlights, but once more, how girls’s company is constricted in instances of each battle and peace. Sanctuary for Ukrainian girls and ladies in Poland comes with restrictions that require private calculations of dangers to 1’s bodily survival. Whereas politicians and Catholic leaders are touting the truth that Ukrainian refugees have discovered “dignified” shelter in Poland, with no detention facilities or refugee camps, the nation has ignored the difficulties of Ukrainian girls searching for entry to abortion.

Ukrainian refugees to the US could quickly face an analogous destiny. With the looming reversal of Roe, Ukrainian refugees, most of them girls with kids who’ve flown to Mexico in hopes of entering the United States (the U.S. authorities announced it will obtain 100 thousand Ukrainian refugees), are prone to be confronted with an analogous downside as in Poland. Which state they find yourself in could now have grave penalties for his or her means to entry reproductive assist. Whereas California could develop into a sanctuary for Ukrainian girls in two methods – as a state that welcomes them and guarantees the right to abortion – states like Texas could in the end develop into a doubtful sanctuary, like Poland, the place danger to life continues to exist in different methods, comparable to refusal to supply abortion entry.

If the scenario in Poland is a harbinger of issues to return in the US, states that help reproductive rights had higher enhance their abortion clinics’ capability shortly. Numerous moms, daughters, and sisters dwelling in locations the place entry to abortion is prone to be restricted will die if different states don’t make entry to abortion way more available.


Donation hyperlink for Poland’s Federacja:
Donation hyperlink for Deliberate Parenthood:


Anna Piela is a visiting scholar on the Division of Faith, Northwestern College. A local of Poland, she has a Ph.D. in Ladies’s Research from the College of York (U.Okay.) and research gender, race and faith. She tweets at @annapiela999.

Joanna Krotofil is an affiliate professor of faith on the Institute for the Research of Faith, Jagiellonian College, Poland. Her analysis focuses on the intersections of gender, faith, and tradition.

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