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Polish women 'risk being spied on, controlled and possibly punished' over 'pregnancy register'

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By Magdalena Chodownik
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People protest against anti-abortion laws in Warsaw, Poland Wednesday Jan. 27, 2021
People protest against anti-abortion laws in Warsaw, Poland Wednesday Jan. 27, 2021   -   Copyright  Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo

Polish women are at risk of being spied on, controlled and possibly punished, it's been claimed, after the government created what critics are calling a "pregnancy register".

Poland, which already has a near-total abortion ban, has expanded the amount of medical data being digitally saved on patients to include pregnancies.

Opponents say the new data could be used by police and prosecutors against women whose pregnancies end, even in cases of miscarriage, or that women could be tracked by the state if they order abortion pills or travel abroad for an abortion.

"A woman comes to me," Polish gynaecologist Agnieszka Kurczuk told Euronews. "I see that she is pregnant. I have, I am obligated to put this information into the system and I am obligated to ask her again in a month when she comes back "are you still pregnant?”

"The registry forces people to check what happens during pregnancy.

"Nobody knows who will have the access to this very intimate, confidential data. Women will be at risk of being spied on, controlled, and possibly punished for ending their pregnancy.

"It puts us, doctors, at risk of being spies. I am not going to spy on my patients, I am not going to report them."

Wojciech Andrusiewicz, a spokesman for Poland's health ministry, sought to allay concerns, saying only medical professionals will have access to the data, and that the changes are being made at the recommendation of the European Union.

"The European Commission has issued recommendations about the information that should be included in the patient's card and we are talking about the same data," he said. "Blood type, or allergy to any medications, is extremely important when implementing treatments. But information about pregnancy is also extremely important when saving a life. A pregnant patient may be in a specific condition where many drugs cannot be given."

But Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, a left-wing lawmaker, said the idea of a "pregnancy register" in a country with an almost complete ban on abortion was terrifying

Antonina Lewandowska, from the Foundation for Women and Family Planning, said given the current climate it was a "stressful" development. 

"Having the registry is scary for women, who may want to decide to terminate their pregnancy outside of the [health] system," said Lewandowska.

"Because even though they are not punished in any way for doing so, the information will still be visible, and medical professionals can ask questions. That itself may be stressful, given the current social, legal, and political circumstances in Poland."