In the previous posts we have been writing about situation of women in such countries as Iran, India and Saudi Arabia. Now it is time to look at one of EU countries, Poland. One would think that in European country things would be pretty progressive, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
70-90% citizens of this country declare themselves to be Roman Catholics (depends on source), which puts Poland in the league of most religious countries in Europe. Until today, Catholic Church has a big influence on politics in Poland. Government spends around 0,6 billion USD annually on religious education (schools, teachers). The major party, PiS, is known for their sympathy to the church and they have no shame whatsoever to bring their agenda to church and vice versa.
This Easter all faithful followers had to listen to pastoral letter from bishops where they declared war on “gender ideology” (even though they have clearly no idea what gender equality is), which they believe has destructive influence on catholic families. Since then, it only became worse. In May this year, Church actively encouraged doctors to sign so called “Declaration of Faith”. Seems harmless, doctors have the right to be religious; nobody pressurizes them to become atheists. Unfortunately, declaration of faith comes in direct conflict with the law and individual human rights, not to mention Hippocratic Oath.
It is not surprising that the biggest problems faced by doctor’s conscience are women’s reproductive rights. I really wonder why all of those bishops that swore to celibacy think about vaginas so much.
To better explain the issue here are some pieces of Declaration of Faith signed by thousands of Polish doctors and medical students:
I recognize that the human body and life, being a gift from God, is sacred and inviolable
- Body is subjected to the laws of nature, but nature was created by the Creator,
- The conception of man and the descent from this world depends entirely on the decision of God. If such decision is made by man, it not only violates the basic commandments of Decalogue, by committing acts such as abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, Euthanasia or in vitro fertilization, but also rejects the Creator Himself
- The primacy of God's law over the law of human;
- The current need for opposing ideologies imposed by inhumane modern civilization,
- The need for continuous deepening not only professional knowledge, but also knowledge of Christian anthropology and theology of the body.
I highlighted the points that I don’t quite understand. If any doctor subscribes to notion “The conception of man and the descent from this world depend entirely on the decision of God” is it still logical for him/her to practice medicine?
Isn't it strange that none of this doctors protests against treatment of heart patients or brain surgery? If death is all up to God, what are you doing in hospital, dear doctor? Why is it that the main focus of catholic doctors is on uterus? Above all, shouldn't they denounce entire medicine as evil intervention in God’s law, pack their bags and move right back to Middle Ages?
What should we say when a country that wrote first constitution in history of Europe is now one step away from witch hunt?
In this document doctors bluntly declare that they, as Catholics, are above the law. And at the moment, it looks like they are. The results of this declaration are immediate and painful for women. Legal abortion in Poland was never easily available (that’s why all abortion clinics in Holland offer information in Polish as well). It is a common practice among doctors to keep their patient waiting for weeks for other unnecessary tests in order to cross the deadline for legal abortion. Another way of refusing women abortion is sending them from doctor to doctor, because under the law doctors have a right to refuse abortion, but they also have obligation to direct their patient to doctor who will do the procedure.
After declaration of faith accessibility to legal abortion has dramatically declined. Some doctors are now proud to break the law and are publicly applauded by pro-life activists for torturing women. Just in recent days director of one of the most popular hospitals in the capital, Warsaw, has refused abortion to women whose child is terminally ill and won’t live long after the birth. In this case law grants her legal abortion, but no one would perform it. For next few months this women will live with consciousness that child inside of her is going to die in agony and pain.
Examples are countless. 11 year old girl was raped by her cousins, won court case, was granted abortion, but again, conscience of bishops and doctors proves to be more important. She is forced to have this baby and politicians publicly say, that we should wait, her maternal instincts will awaken soon. Do I have to comment on this? It is a pure cruelty, torture of women and girls. We point fingers at Yemen where girls are being married off as soon as they begin menstruating, but horrible cases happen here, in Europe as well. It is perhaps even more horrifying, because theoretically there are laws to protect children from abuse and women from physical or mental torture, yet some people have the audacity to say Gods law is above any human laws!
Hospitals and doctors who don’t want to break the law and still provide all medical services that women in Poland legally deserve are under attack. Pro – life activists organize protests and publicly abuse individuals who simply do their duty. People who save life of countless women (and babies too, they are not there only to do abortions, you know) are called “murderers” in front of their hospitals. On top of it, bunch of self declared male virgins, who will never have family (i.e. priests), believe to be saving sinful women from hell fire.
This ridiculous situation only proves that many people still believe, that individuals who want abortion are slutty young women, who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and what’s even worse – they are incapable of mothers love, ultimate goal of every decent women. According to the Catholic Church women should sacrifice their lives for children with smile on their faces and live happily ever after in poverty, with 11 mouths to feed (remember, contraception is evil). I’m afraid as long as we let men (especially priests) lead the discussion on abortion, this is the result we are going to get.
Polish feminist pages are being flooded with painful testimonies of women who were forced to carry sick baby, just because some doctor’s conscience is more important than well being of women. Legal abortion is not forced on any women – it only provides them with choice. Some will choose to give birth, hold their babies in their arms and then watch them die. Some women were raped, but decided to keep baby or give it up for adoption. However, many women decide differently and they have the right to do it. Abortion is NEVER an easy decision, but factors forcing women to do it are vaster than just rape, illness of fetus or danger to mother’s life. Discussion in Poland is now taking radical step back and instead of considering more liberal abortion laws, team of politicians and church officials want to strip away the little rights that Polish women have at the moment.
Pro-life people don’t see the beauty of modern medicine and possibilities it gives doctors to save life. Early detection of fetus deformation might save its life or give parents information about the inevitable death of their child. If we don’t want to give those parents choice, let’s ban any medical examinations altogether in the name of God. Then, let’s give the taxpayers money to the Church, since they will be pleading with God for their health. After all, it is all in the hands of God.
If you would like to take action please sign the petition to Polish Health Minister on Change.org. Support Polish women in their struggle to obtain access to medical services regarding their reproductive rights here @Change.