Polish women’s lives at risk as illegal near-total abortion ban takes effect

women marching

As of yesterday, 27 January, a near-total ban on abortion has become the reality for women in Poland as the October 2020 judgement of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal was published in the journal of laws.

This unlawful judgement would remove the possibility for women to access abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal defects, and threaten doctors who provide abortion care with 3 years in prison. The wording, which dismisses women’s wellbeing as a valid reason for termination of pregnancy, opens the way to potential further bans of abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Angry citizens immediately took to the streets in 51 cities around the country, and further mobilisation is planned over the coming days.

The announcement results from the deliberate dismantling of the rule of law in Poland. The president and three of the judges of the Constitutional Tribunal were illegally and politically appointed in order to steer the rulings of this crucial body. Poland is in legal limbo. The announcement cannot be considered a legal act.

“This move is an outrageous violation of authorities’ basic duty to protect the life and health of their citizens. It will endanger women. It is intended to create terror and lead to the prosecution of doctors and any family member, friend or other person helping women to access this vital care,” said IPPF European Network’s Irene Donadio

“We stand with Polish women and with the brave individuals who will continue to help women to access abortion care when they need it, in spite of this violent, illegitimate move. Outraged Polish citizens are fighting to support doctors and family members threatened with criminal sanctions, and expose those who choose to side with this cruel announcement, betraying and harming women and their families,” added Donadio.

The Polish government must stop trying to silence ordinary people with the same violent repression and attacks we have witnessed this past three months from law enforcement and far-right groups. Citizens must be protected.

This illegal announcement is only one example of abuse by Poland’s authoritarian government which now exerts a near-absolute control over the country’s judicial institutions. It opens the door for further dangerous judgements, including the dismantling of protection for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, offered by the Istanbul Convention.

Respect for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary are fundamental European principles. But in Poland they have been replaced with rule, by the most powerful, and by cruelty and dogma. Polish people need the EU to help uphold the rule of law and democracy in their country. We stand with them. Europe must not abandon Polish citizens.

IPPF media contact: Irene Donadio [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90