Investigation of two more alleged illegal abortions in southern Poland
On 11 May, Radio Zet in Poland reported that the Pińczów police had detained two people who may be connected to the termination of a pregnancy of a 29-year-old woman. They are the 30-year-old partner of the woman and her aunt, 59 years old. The police said they were investigating this case under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office. According to police information, the woman’s partner was supposed to have hidden the fetus.
In another case in the Piekoszów commune near Kielce, other suspects were arrested for “assisting an abortion”. The case came to light after a woman attended one of the hospitals in Kielce seeking help. During the examination, it was learned that she had recently given birth, but it was not clear what had happened to the baby. Police officers from the Municipal Police Headquarters in Kielce went to the woman’s place of residence and found a dead fetus there. They said they were conducting the investigation “in connection with the suspicion of committing the crime of abortion with the consent of the woman”. They said they were waiting for the results of the fetal autopsy, to clarify whether she had had a miscarriage or a termination of pregnancy – a policewoman reported.
Follow-up with the Polish government of advised but uncompleted policy changes arising from Tysiac v. Poland, R.R. v. Poland, and P. and S. v. Poland cases
Three cases, first presented by the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning (Federa) and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), were of women denied legal abortions in Poland – Tysiac v. Poland, R.R. v. Poland, and P. and S. v. Poland – many years ago now. Federa and CRR later took the cases to the European Committee of Ministers in 2021 because the conditions in Poland that led to violation of the women’s rights had not been resolved in line with the rulings of the ECtHR. The European Committee of Ministers’ website says:
“These three cases concern the lack of effective access to lawful abortion in Poland.
“The Tysiąc and R.R. cases concern the lack of effective procedural mechanisms in 2000 and 2002 to enable women to effectively access lawful abortion on grounds of maternal or fetal health where the doctor disagrees that such grounds exist (Tysiąc) or that prenatal tests are justified to assess this within the time limit for lawful abortion or to make other decisions (R.R.) (violation of Article 3 in the R.R. case and Article 8 in both cases). By the time of the European Court’s judgments, both Tysiac and R.R. had given birth. The child in the R.R. case was affected by a genetic disorder and the eyesight of the mother in the Tysiąc case had significantly deteriorated and she was registered as severely disabled.
“The case of P. and S. concerns the authorities’ failure in 2008 to provide reliable information on the conditions and procedures for accessing lawful abortion to the applicants, a minor (P.) and her mother (S.), when the former became pregnant as a result of rape (violation of Article 8). It also concerns the unlawful disclosure to the press of information about the applicants’ case by the public hospital to which P. was admitted for a lawful abortion (violation of Article 8). In addition, prior to her admission to hospital, by order of a Family Court, P. was placed in a juvenile shelter for 10 days and separated from her parents with the aim of preventing her from obtaining a lawful abortion (violation of Article 5 § 1). Lastly, the Court found that P. was treated by the authorities in a deplorable manner, notably due to the institution of criminal proceedings against her on charges of unlawful intercourse and the lack of proper and objective counselling and information (violation of Article 3). The abortion was finally performed in a public hospital 500 kilometres from her home, after the intervention of the Ministry of Health.”
Although in the three individual cases, the Committee found in September 2022 that “no further individual measures appeared necessary”, they also strongly urged the Polish authorities “to put in place unified procedures for access to lawful abortion, including when abortion is refused on grounds of conscience or when the woman’s life or health might be at serious risk, and to provide women with adequate information on those procedures beforehand, stressing additional uncertainty for pregnant women and doctors following the Constitutional Court’s judgment of October 2020.
“In addition, the Committee noted with profound regret the persisting lack of reforms to provide for an explicit obligation of hospitals to refer patients to alternative services when a medical procedure was not performed due to the use of the conscience clause, and strongly urged the authorities to include it in the legislation and to monitor effectively its observance in practice. It also noted with regret that no explanation was provided as to the apparent regional disparities in the access to lawful abortion and urged again the authorities to ensure that lawful abortion and pre-natal examination are effectively accessible across the country without substantial regional disparities and without delay caused by the use of the conscience clause….
“Finally, it stressed the increased importance for women to be able to effectively contest decisions refusing lawful abortion on medical grounds or pre-natal examination at present and strongly urged again the authorities to adopt the necessary reforms to the objection procedure without further delay.”
The webpage continues with a list of issues they are expecting Poland to resolve and a response to them:
– Effective procedures to access lawful abortion and information thereon
– Effective access to lawful abortion when the doctor invokes the conscience clause
– Availability of abortion/pre-natal examination across the country, without regional disparities
– Effective monitoring of contractual obligations to perform lawful abortion
– Objection procedure.
The Committee of Ministers met during the week of 5 June 2023 and a decision from them is expected the week of 13 June, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
A webpage with links to the history of previous meetings on these three cases going back a decade can be found here.