A near-total ban on abortion in Poland took effect Wednesday, following a controversial decision by the Constitutional Court.
The Constitionla Court ruled in October that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. Prior to the ruling, access to abortion was already limited, with just 1,100 procedures performed in 2019. According to the 1993 Act, abortion could only be performed where:
- The pregnancy poses a threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman;
- Prenatal examinations or other medical conditions indicate that there is a high probability of a severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life; or
- There are reasons to suspect that the pregnancy is a result of an unlawful act
Although the Constitutional Court decided in October that (2) was unconstitutional, the enforcement of this judgment was delayed due to mass protests. After the Constitutional Court published a justification for their judgment on Wednesday, the Polish government announced that the change would be entered into the Journal of Laws.
The tightening of the already tough abortion laws has been continuously condemned by human rights charities. Esther Major, Senior Research Advisor at Amnesty International, called Wednesday “a terrible day for women and girls in Poland.” Major also stated:
This dangerous ruling is the latest in a coordinated and systematic wave of attacks on women’s human rights by Polish lawmakers. Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion. Instead, they serve only to damage women’s health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right.
Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski has also spoken against the law, sharing his support for the thousands of protesters taking to the streets in response to the restriction.