POLAND – Man to face court in Poland for helping partner have an abortion

A man will face court for helping his partner to unlawfully terminate her pregnancy, a crime in Poland that can carry a prison sentence of up to three years. The woman herself is not facing charges as, although helping someone obtain an unlawful abortion is a criminal offence, having one yourself is not.

In May this year, police in Pinczów, a town of 11,000 inhabitants in southern Poland, received information that a 29-year-old woman had had a miscarriage and that she and her 30-year-old partner had buried the foetus.

Asked who filed the report, a local police spokesman told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper that he could not reveal that information. However, he confirmed that it had not come from a hospital or doctor, as had happened in the case of another miscarriage in the same region shortly before.

Police launched an investigation into the crime of “terminating pregnancy with the woman’s consent”. They detained and interviewed the couple and also launched a large-scale search for the fetus, including with the use of a sniffer dog.

On 12 May, two days after police received the initial report, they brought charges against the 30-year-old man, whom they said had confessed to the crime. He was released from detention but placed under police supervision and banned from leaving the country, reported the Polish Press Agency (PAP). [On 25 September], prosecutors announced that the man – who can be named only as Grzegorz W. under Polish privacy law – has now been indicted and will appear before a court. “In March 2023 in Pińczów, in violation of the provisions of the law, a man provided assistance in terminating a pregnancy,” the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Kielce, Daniel Prokopowicz, told news website Onet. “This is punishable by up to three years in prison.” Prokopowicz added that investigators had failed to determine the location of the fetus. No information has been provided as to what stage of pregnancy the woman was at when the alleged termination occurred.

Over the last two decades, the 1997 law against assisting in the termination of pregnancies under which both Wydrzyńska and Grzegorz W. were indicted has been used increasingly regularly. In 2002, two individuals were convicted of violating it followed by three the following year. By 2008, the number had risen to 22 and in 2018 it stood at 26. In 2021, prosecutors were investigating 240 cases of alleged violations of the same law.

SOURCE: Notes from Poland, 26 September 2023