On access to abortion in Poland

Poland, a country with a very powerful influence of Catholic church has one of the most restrictive legislation in Europe on the subject of abortion. Theoretically, the procedure is legally permitted in three critical cases, when the mother's health is in danger, in case of rape or incest and in case of serious foetal pathology.

Concretely, access to abortion remains a real problem. In some regions all doctors and hospitals hide behind their conscience clause and refuse to perform the procedure. By directing women from one place to another they intentionally lengthen procedures until 12 or 23 weeks of pregnancy (in case of irremediable fetal malformation), the limit after which abortion is no longer permitted. Sometimes, they even hide the actual development of the fetus so that the mother does not make the decision to abort.

Discussions on the limitation or liberalization of the law in question are repeatedly revived in Poland, but never before 2016 has the scale been so great. Faced with an extremely conservative government and the increasing role of the episcopate of Catholic Church in Poland, marches and protests organized
in the country have gathered more than 100,000 people, from all walks of life, who, dressed in black, came out to protest against a bill of total ban of abortion.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling PiS party together with Polish deputies finally rejected the bill. However, the problem is far from being resolved. The number of legal abortions in Poland ranges from 600 to 1000, but CEBOS (Centre for Public Opinion Research) and feminist organizations like Federation for Women and Family Planning estimate the actual number for between 100,000 and 150,000 abortions per year, including clandestine and pharmacological abortion in the country and "tourism" to clinics in Slovakia, Czech or Germany. Since the opening of the Schengen zone several associations and clinics offer services with transport, accommodation and translation into Polish. This solution, the safest, is nevertheless reserved for wealthy women. Others, under more precarious conditions, find themselves forced to order abortive pills over the Internet or take medication for arthritis or stomach ulcers that provoke miscarriages.

Abortion for economic or social reasons was permitted in the country until 1993 when the current policy was introduced. Today, 70% of Poles are in favour of this status quo. At the same time access to contraceptives is expensive, the next day's pill is available only on prescription, gynaecologists have a right to sign a conscience clause that authorizes them not to prescribe these treatments and sexual education in schools hardly exists.

Some names and locations in the report have been changed.