Reuters, November 9, 2004
Polish Abortion Laws, Reopens Debate
WARSAW -- Poland's strict anti-abortion laws
may lead women from the predominantly Roman
Catholic country to risk their lives as some
are forced to seek illegal and unsafe abortions,
a United Nations (news - web sites) report
Poland's leftist government, a proponent of easier
access to abortion, said the U.N. criticism
should reopen a debate on the issue. Poland
and Ireland have the strictest anti-abortion
rules in Europe.
Under Polish legislation adopted in 1993, abortion
is only allowed if a woman was raped, the pregnancy
threatens her life or if the fetus is damaged.
It replaced decades of virtually free access
to abortion under communism.
"These regulations have to be changed but
that needs serious discussion," Cezary
Mizejewski, secretary of state at the Social
Affairs Ministry, told reporters Monday.
"It is good that we have (the U.N.) report
and it will reopen this discussion. We cannot
keep to the old view that everything is fine
and just close our eyes," he said.
Pro-choice groups such as the Dutch Women on
Waves, which organized a boat with an abortion
clinic to travel to Poland last year, estimate
that there are up to 200,000 illegal abortions
in the new European Union (news - web sites)
member every year.
Doctors who perform illegal abortions face up
to three years in jail.
The U.N.'s Human Rights Committee said in a review
of Poland's civil and political rights that
even women who were legally allowed abortions
did not seem to be able to find hospitals willing
to carry them out.
"The Committee reiterated its deep concern
about restrictive laws in Poland, which might
incite women to seek unsafe, illegal abortions,
with attendant risks to their life and health,"
last week's report said.
Polish media have often reported on a flourishing
backstreet abortion industry in the country,
which shows that the law goes against common
sense, Mizejewski said.
A bill sponsored by the ruling Democratic Left
Alliance (SLD) that would allow all women to
opt for abortion up to the 12th week of their
pregnancy is due for a first reading in parliament
but no date has yet been set.
The SLD has often pledged to relax the rules,
but the influential Catholic Church and the
center-right opposition are opposed. For some
political parties on the right, the current
law does no go far enough.
"Abortion should be completely outlawed
... Abortion is manslaughter, it's murder,"
said Anna Sobecka, a parliamentarian from the
Polish League of Families, a Catholic opposition
"What is a baby, even one created by rape,
guilty of that we commit him to death?"
to a friend
Us Newsletters News