By Anna Błuś
A girl raped by her own father will have no choice but to give birth. A woman at high risk of dying in childbirth or of carrying a dead baby will not be able to seek a termination. This will be the impact of new legislation to be debated in the Polish Parliament later this week which, if passed, would usher in an almost complete ban on abortion.
On Sunday in Warsaw, London and other cities, protesters will gather opposing the amendment to Poland’s existing abortion legislation. The amendment aims tocriminalize women and girls who have sought or had an abortion, making them liable to a prison term of between three months and five years. It also will increase the maximum jail term for anyone who assists or encourages women have an abortion.
Currently, abortion in Poland is only permitted in cases of rape or incest, when the fetus is diagnosed with severe and irreversible disability or an incurable illness threatening its life, or when the woman’s life or health is in danger. The proposed legislation would impose a prohibition in all circumstances other than in cases where medical health professionals deem it necessary to save a woman’s life.
However, with no clear guidelines about how close to death a woman or a girl must be for performing an abortion for medical reasons to be lawful, the onus will be on doctors to delay for as long as possible. “If I have a 32-week pregnant patient with pre-eclampsia, I have to wait for her and her child to start dying before I can take action,” explained Professor Romuald Dębski during a debate in Parliament last April. “If there is an ectopic pregnancy and bleeding, I can perform a termination. But if there is no bleeding—no immediate risk to life—I have to wait until she starts dying.”