Poland: Further criminalising women and those who perform abortions will lead to unnecessary suffering and deaths

Poland: Further criminalising women and those who perform abortions will lead to unnecessary suffering and deaths, Marie Arena, #ourfightwomensrights, European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), fundamental rights,

The S&D Group in the European Parliament has condemned the passing of a new bill to the committee stage in the Polish parliament that would criminalise women who had an abortion and the doctors and nurses who performed it, even in cases of incest or rape.
 
Marie Arena, S&D Group Spokesperson for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, said:
 
“The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has already challenged Poland's existing abortion law saying that it places unacceptable obstacles to women and girls’ access to safe and legal abortion. In all countries where abortion is criminalized, women and girls pay with their health, their well-being and even with their lives.
 
"This new proposal goes beyond just restricting women’s reproductive rights and would force even a girl as young as 12 to keep a child when she had been the victim of rape or incest. This is appalling. It is a breach of a woman’s fundamental rights that in even these extreme cases she would not have the right to decide if they want to terminate the pregnancy. This will cause unnecessary suffering and mental anguish for thousands of women that have already been through horrific ordeals. We urge the Polish government to reject this bill and will stand side-by-side with all those in Poland who oppose this affront to women’s rights.”
“As well as being a breach to fundamental rights this law also carries serious implications for women’s health. Although there is an exception for cases when the mother’s life is at risk – the fact that the law criminalises doctors in all other cases means that even this exception is essentially worthless. Doctors will have to make the decision whether to perform the abortion knowing that they may face five years in prison if a medical board disagrees with their judgement call. This is absurd. Understandably, doctors will err on the side of caution, leading to unnecessary suffering and even deaths.

"We also denounce that recent budget cuts affect mostly women's rights organization and care providers. In most cases, no refunds are available from the National Health fund for access to contraceptives, and the use is one of the lowest in Europe. The introduction of sex and relationship education in schools has been delayed or neglected and almost one third of the pupils do not have access to sexual education. This is unacceptable. We support the work of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning. We support the thousands of citizens who have demonstrated in the last weeks. The international community must not be silent on this. We must condemn this proposal in the strongest terms and let Polish women know that they are not alone in their fight for a fundamental right.”

Note for editors

A delegation from the S&D Group will visit Poland next week (30 September – 1 October) to meet with women’s rights NGOs, staff from family planning clinics and experts on fundamental rights.