POLAND – First hospital that refused to provide an abortion under new government’s rules is fined

Poland currently allows abortion in only two cases: if the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health, or if it is the result of a criminal act (such as rape). In 2022, only 161 legal abortions took place in the country. Yet even in cases where a termination is legally permitted, women can face the additional hurdle of the so-called “conscience clause”, which allows doctors to refuse to do an abortion if it contradicts their beliefs.

Poland’s new government took office in December 2023. They pledged to liberalise the abortion law. But progress on that front has been slow due to disagreements among members of the ruling coalition, which ranges from the left to centre right.

In the meantime, in May 2024, the Health Ministry issued a regulation stipulating that healthcare providers who receive public funds for providing obstetrics and gynaecology care are obliged to offer abortions. Hospitals that fail to do so can be fined up to 2% of the value of their contract with the National Health Fund (NFZ), the body that finances public healthcare in Poland. In the most serious cases, the NFZ can terminate its contract with the hospital.

A hospital has been fined for refusing to provide a legal abortion under this new regulation, the first such hospital to be fined. Health Minister Izabela Leszczyna announced on 17 June that the Pabianice Medical Center had been fined 550,000 zloty (€126,300). She revealed that audit proceedings regarding two other medical facilities were also in the “final stages” and that they were also likely to be penalised. However, all three hospitals are claiming they have not refused to do the abortions per se, but that the women concerned had not provided the required documentation indicating the need for the abortions, to allow them to go ahead and do them. [TBC…]

SOURCE: Notes from Poland, 18 June 2024.