Abortion law in Poland: even more restrictive

The Constitutional Court is overturning the option of terminating a pregnancy in the event of a terminally ill fetus.

Women protest against the imposition of further restrictions on abortion rights in Szczecin Photo: Agencja Gazeta / reuters

WARSAW taz | The protest of tens of thousands of Polish women could not prevent it: On Thursday the Polish constitutional court tightened the already extremely restrictive abortion law in Poland. Almost a year ago, a group of 119 national populist and nationalist MPs applied for a review of the 1993 Family Planning Act for constitutionality.

Up until now, abortions have been legal in Poland if the mother’s life and limb was threatened, the fetus was seriously damaged, the infant would be terminally ill or barely viable, or the pregnancy was due to rape or inbreeding. Last year, Poland had just 1,100 legal abortions from a population of 38 million, most of them due to the medical indication of a severely damaged fetus.

In the future, Polish women will no longer have the right to make a decision of their own if they are diagnosed with “missing brain” or “open backbone” in their baby while they are still growing in their wombs.

The mostly male judges agreed with the mostly male applicants that the women concerned could be expected to give birth to these severely disabled children. The right to life is above the “psychological comfort” of women.

Set penalties

The majority of the constitutional judges – 13 out of 15 – agreed with the applicants that the Family Planning Act of 1993 was about the “legalization of eugenic practices on unborn children”. With this law “these children”, ie the fetuses, “the recognition of the protection of human dignity” will be taken away.

After this ruling by the Constitutional Court, the legislature must reformulate this passage of the Family Planning Act and, in particular, define the punishments for women who oppose the forced birth and illegally have an abortion carried out.

Poland’s parliament will also have to decide whether doctors will make themselves liable to prosecution in future if they tell expectant mothers that their child will be severely disabled or unable to survive. Since 2015, however, the national populists of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and nationalists have had an absolute majority there.

The dispute over the very restrictive abortion law has been dragging on for years. According to surveys, most Poles do not want the abortion law to be tightened. Nevertheless, Catholic fundamentalists repeatedly exerted massive pressure on the MPs.

Appointment agreed

The PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is primarily interested in exploiting the issue. Many political observers in Poland assume that he, with his “social discovery”, the chairman of the Polish constitutional court Julia Przylebska, arranged the date for the negotiation of the abortion law.

Because his failure in the current political situation is only too clear: The Covid-19 numbers are growing explosively without the government having developed a strategy for the second corona wave.

More important for the PiS in the summer were the fight against sexual minorities (LGBT), the presidential elections, internal party quarrels and the renewed position against the EU. According to the government critics, the calculation is that the verdict of the constitutional judges, all but one of whom were appointed by the PiS majority in parliament, will cause a great sensation and thus distract from the failure of Kaczynski and the PiS government.