POLAND – “Undress, squat, cough”: an innocent victim of the criminalisation of abortion

We are in the middle of (yet another) crisis in Poland, and I am (again) reaching out to ask you to share this information. As you may have heard, a woman was recently abused by the police, this time in a hospital. This is another episode of the Polish anti-abortion obsession, showing the case of Joanna, an innocent women who fell victim to the criminalisation of abortion in Poland.

We learned of Joanna’s story from Fakty TVN. In April this year Joanna took abortion pills, and since she was not feeling well, she went to the doctor while bleeding, in the middle of a self-administered medical abortion, and told the doctor about her abortion. The doctor called the police. Joanna was found at home and “escorted” to the hospital for a gynaecological examination by four policemen, who treated her as if she were a criminal. “The police asked me to undress, squat, and cough,” Joanna said. “I undressed, but I didn’t take off my underwear, because I was still bleeding.” She called the experience “humiliating”. She was forced to accept a “pat-down” in the most severe version, with squatting and coughing. They also tried to do a rectal search. All this, while she was bleeding…Yet Joanna emphasised that no one helped her to terminate the pregnancy, that this was her decision.

Still in the hospital, when she was not looking, the policemen searched her bag. They also illegally took her laptop and mobile phone. The medical staff were not allowed to intervene — the police were aggressive and non-communicative. They ignored Joanna’s state of mind. She had told the hospital staff of the worsening of her mental state due to chronic mental illness (she has been receiving treatment for years). All this despite the fact that she had not in fact committed ANY crime under Polish law.

FEDERA’s lawyer, Kamila Ferenc, has agreed to be Joanna’s legal representative and has filed a complaint in court against the seizure of Joanna’s belongings. She will provide her with all the support necessary. The Ombudsman for Patient’s Rights has declared their involvement in the case and initiated proceedings ex officio. The police provided their version of events, claiming they were notified about a crime being committed under Art.152 § 2 of the Polish criminal code and were taking necessary actions. Three months ago, the prosecutor’s office had also initiated proceedings for aiding an abortion, but during all this time no one has been presented with criminal charges. In Federa’s opinion, the arguments of the police were not legally justified, and even if they had had to take some kind of procedural action, the way they treated Joanna and the measures used in her case were disproportionate. Joanna had not broken the law and there was no urgency to take action.

We are taking steps against the police and the state. The special Ombudsman for Patients’ Rights has also become involved.

Please read this story on our Twitter account (the auto-translate to English works fine, we have been told): https://twitter.com/federapl/status/1681394421693022213 and share it.

Please also follow FEDERA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/federapl for the most recent posts and updates on Joanna’s story.

At this point we do not ask for international advocacy or any joint solidarity action but please share this story with the media,, along with the above picture, and let’s tell the world about the extent of harm abortion legislation is causing to us. We need the outrage to be as wide as possible. We will keep you updated if there is anything else to be done.

Thank you so much, as always!

In solidarity,

Antonina Lewandowska

ASTRA Network Coordinator // National Advocacy Coordinator FEDERA (Foundation for Women and Family Planning)

SEE ALSO (for more background): Worldcrunch, by Dominika Wantuch, 19 July 2023