It is known that at least 34,000 women in Poland have requested abortions illegally or abroad since the country introduced an almost total ban on pregnancy terminations a year ago.
According to Abortion Without Borders (AWB), an organization that helps women access safe abortion services, more than 1,000 Polish women have requested second trimester abortions in foreign clinics since the country passed new laws. draconian.
AWB said its figures are likely only a snapshot of the actual number of Polish women who have requested illegal or foreign abortions in the past year. NGOs estimated that 80 to 200,000 women per year seek illegal abortions under the old Polish abortion laws, which still tightly restricted the conditions under which women could request an abortion.
On October 22 last year, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that abortions for fetal malformations were unconstitutional and that interruptions would only be allowed in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s health was in danger, which represented only about 2% of legal terminations at the time of judgment. The law entered into force in January 2021.
In the past year, at least 460 Polish women seeking second trimester abortions have traveled to England, according to AWB, where interruptions can be made for up to 24 weeks, and beyond in exceptional circumstances. The charity claims to have helped women travel from Poland to Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic to access legal abortions.
Of those who have sought her services in the 12 months since the legislation was announced, AWB says at least 18,000 women have been helped by its affiliate group Women Help Women, an organization that facilitates postal access. abortion pills.
The figures were released the same week as a Human Rights Watch report, including evidence from 14 other organizations, including Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights, claiming that women and girls in Poland are facing “untold harm” as a result of the new abortion. legislation.
“The decision of the constitutional court is causing untold harm – especially to those who are poor, live in rural areas or are marginalized,” said Urszula Grycuk, international advocacy coordinator at the Federation for Women and Family Planning (Federa ) in Poland, one of the groups that contributed to the report.
Mara Clarke, founder of AWB, told The Guardian: “We are seeing more women [access our services] with a fetal anomaly since the law changed. Our service users tell us that the severity of fetal abnormalities is minimized by doctors, and in some cases, doctors willfully delay diagnosis. [so that women find it more difficult to access an abortion]. “
Abortion has always been tightly controlled in Poland and was banned until 1932, when the law changed to allow legal abortion for medical reasons or in cases of rape or incest.
The October 2020 decision sparked a wave of nationwide protests, with thousands of women and girls across the country dressed in black taking to the streets in a nationwide strike. An estimated 100,000 people demonstrated against the new legislation in Warsaw.