Poland Has Banned Almost All Abortions, a Disaster for Reproductive Rights

Poland Has Banned Almost All Abortions, a Disaster for Reproductive Rights
Image:Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP (Getty Images)

Back in October 2020, when most of the world was anticipating a second wave of the global covid-19 pandemic, Poland’s top court was preparing to implement regressive rules on abortion, finding a 1993 law “allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities” was unconstitutional. “An unborn child is a human being,” the court determined, in a statement that referred to
a “fetus” as “child,” as the BBC reported at the time. The ruling, which officially went into effect Wednesday, completely banned abortion in the European country, save instances of incest or rape, and situations in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Even before the high court’s ruling, Poland has been considered a European country with some of the most oppressive views on reproductive health. (For context, this decision is on par with the cruelty found in American states with notoriously draconian abortion policies, like Mississippi.) According to the BBC, 98 percent of all abortions performed in Poland in 2019 fall under the conditions of the 1993 law, which allowed only for “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’s life,” according to The Guardian—making the vast majority of abortions in the country illegal today. In fact, since 1993, abortions in Poland have only been legal in three instances: fetal abnormalities, rape or incest, and threats to the pregnant person’s life. This new policy is a near-total ban on abortion, a monstrous step backward in human rights for the country, and for reproductive rights around the world.

Since October, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens have protested the barbaric decision, in “the largest demonstrations in the country since the 1989 collapse of communism,” as The New York Times reports. Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski told The Times the ruling is a “conscious and calculated acting to the detriment of the state,” and goes ““against the will of Poles… It’s not only women whom you’re bringing to the streets, it’s the whole nation that has had enough.”

Senior research adviser at Amnesty International, Esther Major, told The Guardian on Wednesday, “Today is a terrible day for women and girls in Poland. This harmful ruling rolls back on pregnant people’s sexual and reproductive rights and puts their health at risk. We stand in solidarity with women and girls in Poland and share in their outrage at this cruel decision.”

Prepare for more protests, Poland.

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