Poland for few years now is slowly walking towards nationalist and right-wing tendencies. Catholics are feeling oppressed, because of the drive for equality of people they don’t feel worthy - homosexuals, transsexuals and unmarried people - and as a result are pushing for radicalisation of many aspects of social life.
First, the current ruling party - Law and Justice, was against Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, claiming that it goes against traditional catholic values. Main reservation was that it expands the definition of family outside of traditional view, i.e. married men and women with children.
Second, Poland is one of the few countries that has no legislation for same sex couples. There are some ways that same sex couples can tie themselves together legally, but recently it has been made more difficult if not impossible. Government reserves right to forbid couples from getting married abroad, doesn’t accept valid marriage certificates and makes it more difficult to obtain citizenship for children of same sex couples.
But it wasn’t enough. Now there are making moves to threaten women’s reproductive rights, women’s right to health and women’s right to bodily autonomy.
The anti-abortion organisation proposed the bill to totally ban abortion. The right would allow only for actions to save woman’s life when there is immediate threat and there is no other option. It plans to introduce new crime: “prenatal murder” and punish women and health care providers who terminate pregnancy for up to 5 years in prison.
Right now, we have some kind of “trade-off” regarding abortion rights. Abortion is legal, but only in three cases:
1. Rape and incest
2. Danger to mother’s health and life
3. Serious fetal abnormalities
However, Poland also protected “conscience” of doctors by introducing “conscience clause”, where doctors are allowed to refuse medical treatment if it’s in disagreement with their moral compass. Furthermore, current law doesn’t require the doctor to indicate another health care provider who could terminate pregnancy, leaving women stranded, on their own, in a limbo, unable to find the doctor to provide the service and going against the clock to be allowed abortion on the legal grounds.
This situation led to serious human rights and patient rights abuses: from harassment of raped girls and refusal of abortion up to women having to give birth to seriously ill babies, which died an agonising death shortly after.
There were cases, when women were refused abortion in pregnancy defects that rendered them sterile.
Babies were born without bones, with hydrocephalus and other abnormalities. All of those instances qualified for legal abortion in Poland, but the choice was taken away from women and instead there were forced to see their babies die in pain. If abortion is murder, then I don’t know what kind of sadistic satisfaction anti-abortion people can have in this situation.
There is a controversy regarding abortion on down syndrome fetuses. Although there is a huge amount of people living with Down Syndrome who are fully functional in our society, but having such child poses serious problems to families: men usually cannot handle handicapped children and leave mothers to raise their child alone; children that end up in foster system are at serious threat of abuse and neglect; parents are constantly worried of how they can provide for their children and who will take care of them after their died. Those are serious issues that many families are facing daily without almost no support from government.
At the moment, if we compare and analyse maternal deaths and infant deaths both in Poland and Ireland, one begs the question of the consequences of anti-abortion legislation. Right now, Poland have one of the lowest maternal mortality in Europe. That’s something to be proud of! While Poland rate for maternal mortality is 3 per 100,000, for Ireland is 9 per 100,000 (Human Development Index, 2015). In statistics the numbers are negligible. In real life? Not so much.
However, if we look at child mortality, the numbers are more grim. In Ireland child mortality is 3.2 per 1,000 while in Poland its 4.5 per 1,000. So let’s imagine this in numbers. It’s estimated that in Poland 360-380 thousands babies are born each year. So it means that each year 1620 infants die each year (Human Development Index, 2015). Looking at the numbers above, it means that yearly around 10 women are dying at the childbirth (fun fact: during 12 year of Polish involvement in Afghan war, 43 soldiers died).
Every life lost is one to many.
The reasons for sure vary and it’s not all due to abuse of women’s rights, but it begs the question why Polish government is so fixated on saving a fetus, when there is clearly much to be done in saving already born babies and complete grown-up human beings.
We are afraid that restricting already strict abortion laws in Poland will result in more maternal deaths and more infant deaths. We are afraid that the legislation will lead to doctor’s reluctance to start life saving procedures faster out of fear of prosecution. We are afraid that the criminalisation of abortion will lead to investigation and (God forbid!) prosecution of miscarriages.
Although the legislation has been proposed by anti-abortion group it has been now widely supported by politicians from Law and Justice party, including our prime minister Beata Szydlo and the leader of the party - Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The legislation has been widely supported by Polish Catholic Church and the letters from Episcopate supporting “Stop Abortion!” initiative had now been read in every church in Poland. It is also widely known that the current government is under pressure from the Church to introduce legislation highly abusing and restricting rights of women, non-binary people and other-than-heterosexual relationships.
If you encounter any news saying that the government is backing out from their statements - their not. It’s a lie. They are very much against abortion and they are very much against women.
As a result of this situation, social activist group emerged - Dziewuchy Dziewuchom. Although the group has been set up on 1st April 2016, it already have 100,000 members and supporters. Polish Women from around the world are organising protests and manifestations, everything what’s in our power to stop this all from happening.
We are working alongside various groups such as Ratujmy Kobiety (Safe the Women) and their initiative Moje Cialo, Moja Broszka (My Body, My Business) not only to stop the legislation, but also to abolish “conscience clause” and maybe even liberalise the current abortion law.
We are fighting so that women’s right to health and bodily autonomy is respected and protected.
Written by Vespertillio
for Dziewuchy Dziewuchom Irlandia