Warsaw, Poland — The Polish government, where a near-total ban on abortion is in place, was accused on Monday of creating a “pregnancy registry” as the country increases the amount of digitally recorded medical data on patients.
Women’s rights advocates and opposition politicians fear women will face unprecedented scrutiny given the conservative views of a ruling party that has already tightened what was one of the laws on restrictive abortion rights in Europe.
They fear the new data could be used by police and prosecutors against women whose pregnancies end, even if they miscarry, or that women could be tracked by the state if they order abortion pills or travel. abroad for an abortion.
“A pregnancy registry in a country where abortion is almost completely banned is terrifying,” said Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, a leftist MP.
The case drew attention on Monday after Health Minister Adam Niedzielski signed an order on Friday expanding the amount of information to be recorded in a central patient database, including allergy information. , blood group and pregnancies.
Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz sought to allay concerns, saying only medical professionals will have access to the data and that the changes are being made on the recommendation of the European Union.
The effort, he said, is aimed at improving the medical treatment of patients, including if they seek treatment elsewhere in the EU27. In the case of pregnant women, he said it would help doctors to know immediately which women should not have x-rays or certain medications.
“Nobody is creating a pregnancy registry in Poland,” he told news channel TVN24.
But Marta Lempart, the leader of a women’s rights group, Women’s Strike, said she did not trust the government to hide information about women’s pregnancies from police and prosecutors. She told The Associated Press that Polish police are already questioning women about the end of their pregnancy, tipped off by disgruntled partners.
“Being pregnant means the police can come to you at any time and prosecutors can come and ask you questions about your pregnancy,” Lempart said.
The new system means that many Polish women will now avoid the public medical system during their pregnancies, with wealthier women seeking private treatment or traveling abroad, even for prenatal care.
Meanwhile, poorer women in Poland will face an increased risk of medical problems or even death from avoiding prenatal care, Lempart fears.
Lempart also fears that information obtained by the police will be shared with state media to damage people’s reputations.
She already knows how it can happen. In 2020, Lempart tested positive for COVID-19, and the information was reported by state television even before she got her results.
Poland – a predominantly Catholic country – prohibits abortion in almost all cases, with exceptions only when a woman’s life or health is in danger or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.
For years, abortion was permitted in the case of fetuses with congenital malformations. This exception was overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2020.
In practice, Polish women seeking termination of pregnancy order abortion pills or travel to Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries where the procedure is permitted. While self-administering abortion pills is legal, helping someone else is not.
Activist Justyna Wydrzyńska faces up to three years in prison for helping a victim of domestic violence access abortion pills. Amnesty International says this is the first such case in Europe.