New blow against abortion rights in Poland
Updated: May 28, 2020
In the rare cases where abortion is legal in Poland (foetal defects, risks to the health of the pregnant person, rape), doctors can use the "conscience clause" which allows them to refuse to perform this medical act. They must then refer the person who wants to have an abortion to a professional who agrees to take care of them. The Health Commission of the Polish Parliament has just removed this obligation from the law. Women requiring an abortion will now have to find out for themselves where they can get an abortion. Doctors who use the conscience clause are unfortunately not exceptions. In Podkarpackie, for example, a region of 2 million inhabitants, all doctors have signed the conscience clause, so it is virtually impossible to obtain a legal abortion. Sometimes doctors even lie about the results of prenatal examinations, as in an infamous case a few years ago when several doctors in a hospital joined forces to prevent a woman from aborting by not revealing to her the incurable defects of her foetus and forcing her to give birth to a dying child. Recently, a medal was awarded to an anti-choice activist who prevented a 17-year-old girl from having an abortion. Upon learning of her pregnancy, the girl had sought abortion advice on a closed Facebook group, and the activist reported her to her family and boyfriend. These two examples show how the anti-choice side views women: they believe that women are unable to decide for themselves, do not need access to their own medical information – doctors, parents and partners can decide for them. Polish women are tired of being treated in this way, as they showed during the women's strike in 2016, and this year when the right to abortion was once again threatened. For three decades, conservatism and hatred of women has been encouraged and institutionalised in Poland as a support for capitalism. In order to obtain full reproductive rights, which are democratic rights, and to be able to exercise them, Polish women and their allies will have to tackle this system of oppression and exploitation.