Wanda Nowicka of Poland’s federation for Women and Family Planning describes what she sees as some of the failures of the legislation and warns of the consequences if calls for a full ban on abortions are met.
“The anti-abortion law has been introduced in Poland as a result of the political transformation, because immediately since 89, when Poland went through the changes, immediately the Catholic Church started to push for a legal ban on abortion. And unfortunatly they succeeded, and in 1993, the anti-abortion law has been passed.
“The Polish allow abortion on very few conditions, which are medical grounds, criminal grounds and genetical grounds. But in practices you can not exercise those laws on those grounds. So, in practice, we have a full-ban abortion at the moment. The major problem is also such that there are some people pushing to try to restrict this law even further. We had already 2 attempts to introduce a full ban on abortion. The first was in 2006 and now in 2011. This is our big problem althought that the law is already so restrictive, it could get restrictive even more.
“The consequences of a full ban of abortion – including a ban on abortion in case of putting at risk of womens life - are outrageous: women may lose their lives. Because if in case of health problems, the doctors would choose between saving the foetus (and) saving the womens life. Even now, as we don’t have this provision, there are women who suffered as a result of that; doctors are extremely anti-choice in Poland. They evoke the conscious clause very often. And in the case of conflict between the health of women and the life of a foetus, very often they choose the life of the foetus.
“The anti abortion law in Poland caused a lot of bad results: first of all, it did not stop abortions. It means that women are having abortions, but they are having them in the so-called “abortion underground”. It is usually provided by medical doctors which means that they are relatively safe.
“But some women are still victims of this abortion underground. We assess that abortion underground is quite huge and it could be from even 80,000 up to 200,000 abortions per year.
“The second result of this law is that women who are entitled to abortion are not able to excercise this right. That means that either they continue pregnancy against their will or against their health status and with all the consequences of that… Or they choose illegal abortion even though they are entitled to have a legal abotion. Or they go to other countries for abortion. So, this are the main problems with this law.
“The Federation for Women and Family Planning is monitoring the situation and we are observing that the trend is growing. The trend of women going abroad is growing among those women deciding having abortion which is not legal. A majority, still, would contact a doctor here, in the Polish abortion underground, but more and more women would choose to go abroad.
“Additionally there is a new phenomenon that we observe, this is buying abortion pills by internet and this phenomenon is also growing. So, the situaiton is changing, that more and more women just prefer to go abroad, where they have legal abortion, costly, that’s true, but in Polish underground it is also costly, it is very expensive. But safety is the major argument for many women to go abroad.”