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Poland to issue more detailed abortion guidelines after another pregnant woman dies

People gather before Poland's Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.
People gather before Poland's Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
By Lauren Chadwick
Published on Updated
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The 33-year-old from Poland, which has some of the strictest abortion rules, died of sepsis after the hospital waited for the foetus to die.

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Polish health authorities have appointed a team to issue more detailed pregnancy termination guidelines for medical facilities after a pregnant woman died last month.

Authorities said on Monday that a 33-year-old woman, Dorota, had her rights violated after she died of sepsis in a hospital.

She was in her fifth month of pregnancy when she was admitted to a hospital in southern Poland and died on 24 May days after her water broke and hours after the foetus had died, Polish media reported.

The case has put a spotlight on Poland's strict abortion laws.

Authorities have insisted, however, that the death occurred due to a medical error, specifying that abortion is legal in instances where a woman's life or health is at risk.

"Every woman whose health or life is in danger at any time during her pregnancy has the right to terminate it," Poland's health minister Adam Niedzielski said after authorities launched an investigation into the circumstances of Dorota's death.

What are the abortion laws in Poland?

Poland has some of the most strict abortion laws in Europe after the country's Constitutional Court ruled in 2020 that women could not terminate their pregnancies even when a foetus has severe and irreversible defects.

The legal changes sparked widespread protests in the country over concerns that it would impact women's health.

Abortion is now only allowed in cases where a woman's life or health is at risk or for pregnancies resulting from rape.

This is not the first time a woman has died of sepsis in Poland because doctors waited to see if they could save the foetus instead of terminating the pregnancy.

'Gender-based violence'

In a statement, health minister Niedzielski said that the government defined women's health "broadly" as both physical and mental health.

But Polish non-profit family planning organisation Federa wrote in a statement posted on Facebook that the appointed team could downplay the "mental health threat".

They said that the patient's decision should be the "most important" factor in terminating a pregnancy.

"We don't want to compensate for medical errors, but to avoid them," Federa added.

"Each death of a pregnant woman is one death too many".

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Irene Donadio, the senior strategy and partnership lead at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said in a statement provided to Euronews Next that the Polish abortion restrictions are "killing women and hurting families".

She said that denying access to abortion is a form of "gender-based violence".

"This law has real consequences on women, life and death consequences, and it’s beyond inexplicable how the ruling party can continue to cause so much needless suffering," the statement added.

A protest is planned in Poland on 14 June over the case of Dorota.

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Additional sources • AP

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