POLAND – Committee on Legal Abortion Without Compromises announced at press conference

Women’s Strike and other pro-choice groups held a press conference on the morning of 3 February in Warsaw. They announced the formation of a Committee on Legal Abortion Without Compromises , which includes: Women’s Strike, Abortion Dream Team, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Łódź Dziewuchy Dziewuchom, Grand Coalition for Equality and Choice, and Women’s Rights Centre.

The Committee announced that they had drafted a new bill to be tabled in the Polish parliament by the left coalition when sufficient signatures have been gathered; this is the result of cooperation between organisations and women’s groups that have been fighting for the right to abortion for many years, and also includes eight women members of parliament from left-wing parties.

The press conference can be found on Facebook. The majority is in Polish. Here is the part in English, by Marta Lempart, one of the Women’s Strike leaders:

“Here we are in this horrible moment for Polish women and women’s rights organisations. But in spite of that we are making a fifth attempt to legalise abortion in Poland. Because, as our Argentinian sisters did, we will take a huge step forward, but we first have to take a huge step backward. That’s what has happened in Poland. The legal situation hasn’t changed but the actual situation has changed. We don’t have access to abortion anymore, thanks to the illegal ruling of the Constitutional Court. But we are looking at the wider context. We are going to try as many times as we need. This is the fifth attempt. Our Argentinian sisters took 15 years and nine attempts to legalise abortion. And we are prepared to go all the way and we will win as they did, and we wear the Argentinian green and we use their experience and we will win as they did. We will try every way, we will form coalitions and we will try every route, talk to everyone necessary, and take every path to get there. Because we need the hope now, and we need to talk to the people in the street, especially now, that we are going to win. We all know that the ban on abortion does not mean no abortion. It means that we will have to pay for abortion. That’s the only difference. So we leave these lies to the rightwing and to the Church. They can use them if they want. But the truth will survive. We know that what we want is the norm and the standard in Europe and around the world.

Kamila Ferenc, who spoke from the Federation for Women and Family Planning, said that the draft bill provides for the possibility of termination of pregnancy free under the National Health Fund insurance, up to the 12th week of pregnancy, without asking for a reason, and from the 12th to the 24th week of pregnancy in cases of risk to the woman’s life or physical or mental health, malformations of the fetus or if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act. The bill also repeals criminal sanctions against health professionals who provide abortions “so that doctors are not afraid to save the lives and health of pregnant patients”. The bill enables motherhood by choice. The abortion must be provided within 72 hours after submitting a request. Those under 13 will need consent from a guardian.

The coalition also asks for support on social media: “Legal Abortion. No Compromise”.

This week Le Groupe SOC – the Socialists, Democrats & Greens Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – published a joint statement regarding the de-facto abortion ban in Poland. The ruling, they reported, has already been strongly condemned by the international community as well:

The Groupe’s statement said: “The decision stands in the direct opposition with good medical practice, international human rights, and WHO recommendations. Additionally, it infringes upon the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner’s obligations for the Member States to ensure access to abortion care and specifies that any refusal of care on grounds of religion or belief by a medical professional may never be allowed to jeopardise women’s right to access sexual and reproductive health services. The law would harm women’s equality, dignity, autonomy, and bodily integrity, restricting their access to information and their rights to private life and health.

The deterioration of the SRHR rights in Poland is a consequence of the erosion of the democratic institutions in the country, including the unlawful appointment of judges to the Constitutional Tribunal.

We, therefore, urge Polish ruling coalition to respect the fundamental rights of all Poles to make autonomous decisions about their own bodies and reproductive abilities, which are at the very core of their fundamental right to equality and privacy concerning intimate matters of physical and psychological integrity, and to refrain from adopting the judgment of the institution internationally recognised as unlawfully adopted.”

Neil Datta of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights has written in Open Democracy: “Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, which issued the anti-abortion ruling is itself of highly contested legitimacy. Putting aside the substance of the ruling, the current tribunal is the result of a political power play by the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party that evicted the previous judges and replaced them with judges more amenable to the party’s political agenda. The former judges have not recognised their eviction nor their newly installed replacements. Thus, the Constitutional Tribunal itself is the subject of fundamental democratic contestation in Poland, and the European Commission has raised concerns about it in its ongoing proceedings about infringement of the rule of law in Poland.” 

More Polish women will need to seek abortions outside their country now that this ruling has taken effect. We will be calling for donations to support them in the near future.

SOURCES: VIDEO/PHOTO: Women’s Strike Press conference, Warsaw, 3 February 2021 in Polish and English ; Polsat News, 3 February 2021 ; Le Groupe SOC Joint Statement, 3 February 2021 ; Open Democracy, by Neil Datta, 3 February 2021