The first pro-choice activist to be charged in Poland for breaking the country’s strict abortion law by providing miscarriage-causing tablets to a pregnant woman is due to stand trial next week.
Justyna Wydrzyńska, from the Polish group Aborcyjny Dream Team (ADT), is accused of illegally assisting in an abortion and faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.
“I could be treated like most other people in this situation and given a six-month suspended sentence, or they might want to make an example of me and send me to jail, maybe even for years” , she said from her home. outside of Warsaw.
Access to abortion has been subject to strict laws in Poland for decades, but in January last year the country introduced legislation that made it virtually impossible for women to legally access abortion. safe pregnancy. The case against Wydrzyńska dates back to February 2020.
“Deep down we knew something like this could happen. We were always public about what we did – we never hid it,” ADT member Natalia Broniarczyk said of the organization’s work and its members’ media appearances.
The group has always been careful to operate within the framework of Polish law, which only criminalizes abortion providers and not the patients on whom the procedure is performed.
“The ‘assisted abortion’ law dates back to the 1990s,” said Amsterdam-based ADT member Kinga Jelińska. “At the time, surgical abortions were the only option, so it was written with very direct physician involvement in mind.”
ADT evaded regulation by referring women seeking abortions to overseas-based organizations, where the most common abortion drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, can be legally obtained and mailed. ADT could therefore not be accused of directly providing abortions.
But at the end of February 2020, Wydrzyńska sent pills she had at home directly to a woman who contacted her. “This woman was 12 weeks pregnant and experiencing domestic abuse,” Wydrzyńska told the Guardian. “I had my abortion at 12 weeks and I’ve also been in an abusive relationship. I know what it means to be in this situation. Helping her was my first human response.
The woman had previously tried to travel to Germany for the operation, but was prevented from doing so by her husband. Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic was beginning to take hold. “The Polish postal service had announced that international mail could be suspended or disrupted. We were running out of time,” added Wydrzyńska.
The day the package arrived, police officers – who were allegedly called by her husband – arrived at the woman’s home. She said the stress of the ensuing police investigation led her to miscarry.
More than a year later, the police showed up at Wydrzyńska’s home and confiscated the medicines she had at home, as well as computers from her and her children.
“I guess it’s like an accidental pregnancy,” Wydrzyńska joked. “It was the first time I took a risk, and bam: I was indicted.”
Wydrzyńska has been involved in abortion activism for more than 15 years, creating the country’s first chat room where Poles could exchange information about the few safe abortion options still available to them. She had been involved with ADT since 2019, which works to de-stigmatize abortion and connect women with foreign providers of abortion pills.
The group launches a multilingual platform online campaign, #IamJustynato promote solidarity and brotherhood, as well as to sensitize the international community to the situation in Poland.
“This law on assisted abortion aims to isolate the person who needs it, to make them feel alone. We want to show that they are not alone. That they can count on us and that they can rely on their friends and family,” said Jelińska.
Broniarczyk said: “We encourage people to message their friends and say, ‘If you ever need an abortion, you can count on me. In addition, we hope for international support and pressure, as well as funds.
Following the abortion restriction in Poland in 2021, the Belgian government assisted ADT by providing funds to Polish women wishing to have an abortion abroad. Broniarczyk hopes the court case can also mobilize other international donors because, as she puts it, “abortions cost money.”