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Activist on trial in Poland for providing abortion pills in 'European first'

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By Euronews  with AFP
A group of women's rights activists protest in Warsaw with a sign reading "Abortion Without Borders".
A group of women's rights activists protest in Warsaw with a sign reading "Abortion Without Borders".   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

A Polish activist has been charged with helping a woman get an abortion in the first trial of its kind in Europe.

Justyna Wydrzyńska is accused of providing abortion pills to a pregnant woman, who said she was a victim of domestic violence in 2020.

Wydrzyńska -- from the Polish group Aborcyjny Dream Team (ADT) -- faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Amnesty International say it is the first case in Europe where a pro-abortion activist has been prosecuted for providing abortion pills.

The international NGO has called for the charges against Wydrzyńska to be dropped and for abortion access to be “fully decriminalised" in Poland.

Poland has one of the strictest laws on abortion in Europe despite widespread anger from women's rights activists.

Last year, the country's constitutional court agreed with the conservative government's stance that pregnancies could not be ended where the foetus is malformed.

Pregnancies can now only be terminated where there is a threat to the mother’s health or life or if it resulted from a criminal act, such as rape or incest.

The court's decision led to widespread protests across Poland, as well as criticism from other European Union member states.

At least two Polish women are also reported to have died since the new law was introduced after doctors were allegedly forced to put the life of the foetus before the mother.

Wydrzyńska formally faces charges for "providing abortion assistance" under a 1997 law and "placing drugs on the market without authorisation".

In 2020, she was allegedly contacted by a woman -- in her 12th week of pregnancy -- who wanted an abortion.

According to ADT, the pregnant woman had previously been prevented from visiting an abortion clinic in neighbouring Germany by her husband.

Prosecutors say that her husband later called the police while she was at home, waiting for the abortion pills to arrive.

The ADT group says it has assisted around 100 women every day who want an abortion by referring them to organisations based abroad.

But Wydrzyńska says she had been motivated to personally help the woman due to her own personal experience, several years previously.

"I hope that this trial will mark a turning point in the Polish legal system and that in a few years abortion pills will be sold in petrol stations next to condoms," the activist said, after the first hearing on Friday.

Dozens of pro-abortion demonstrators gathered outside the court building to support Wydrzynska, while anti-abortion protesters also gathered.

The trial has been adjourned until 14 July.