Polish woman refused abortion challenges restrictive law in Europe rights court

[JURIST Europe] A Polish woman who claims she was rendered blind when she was refused an abortion has brought her case before the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. Alicja Tysiac, 35-year old mother of three, has filed a claim against Poland [ECHR schedule of public hearings] stating that the country's strict 1993 abortion law [CRR reproductive rights backgrounder, PDF] has violated her rights under Articles 8 (right to respect for privacy and family life) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [official text]. Tysiac had consulted three opthalmologists in February 2000 about her third pregnancy and was warned that she had a great risk of losing her eyesight if she carried the pregnancy to term. The same three opthalmologists also refused to give Tysiac an abortion certificate on medical grounds. Tysiac's vision worsened following the birth of her third child.

Polish law only allows abortion if the fetus is damaged, the woman has been raped, or if the woman's life is in danger. Although recent surveys suggest that most Poles favor easing the laws, the government has so far steered clear of the issue, which would bring it into direct conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, the driving force behind the repeal of the more liberal Communist-era abortion rules. Rights groups [HRW report; Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning backgrounder] and the UN [UPI report] have already criticized Poland for its stance. Reuters has more.

Angela Onikepe is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.



 

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