European Court: Polish Abortion Verdict Violated Woman’s Rights

A Polish rights group representing the patient said the ruling "is a milestone and another argument that Polish law, which causes so much suffering for women in Poland, must change."

Dec 14, 2023

A court in Europe ruled Thursday that a 2020 Constitutional Tribunal judgment further restricting already limited abortion access in Poland violated a pregnant woman's right to respect for private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant, a Warsaw resident identified in court papers as M.L., became pregnant in 2020. After her fetus was diagnosed with trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, she scheduled an appointment for an abortion at a Polish hospital. However, the Constitutional Tribunal determined that abortions because of fetal abnormalities are unconstitutional, a policy that took effect in January 2021.


6 Stories Show the Human Toll of Poland’s Strict Abortion Laws

By Anna Pamula | Photographs by Kasia Strek for TIME
OCTOBER 13, 2023

Krzysztof Sowinski has cried every day since his wife Marta, who was five months pregnant, died of sepsis in 2022; he believes doctors put Marta’s life in danger by not giving them the option to terminate the pregnancy while the fetus’ heart was still beating. Janusz Kucharski also lost his partner Justyna to sepsis in the fifth month of a pregnancy. She left behind two boys.

It is likely, reproductive-rights advocates say, that these women would be alive if not for Poland's increasingly restrictive abortion laws. Abortion has been illegal in the country since 1993, but a 2020 ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, which went into effect the next year, removed one of the exceptions to the law—fetal abnormalities—and imposed a near-total ban on abortion. Now women can terminate a pregnancy only if the women’s life or health is at risk (including mental health risks with a psychiatric diagnosis) or if there is reasonable suspicion that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.


Police at the hospital: Abortion battle heats up in Poland

The case of a humiliating police operation in response to a woman who’d taken an abortion pill has intensified debate over whether Poland’s abortion laws have gone too far.

Jacek Lepiarz
July 23, 2023

The leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, likes to surround himself with women at campaign events. He courts them in the old Polish manner with a kiss on the hand, but such gestures belie the fact that his right-wing nationalist party is actually at war with the country's women.

An ever closer alliance between the Polish government and the Catholic Church has led to a radical tightening of abortion laws in recent years. In 2020, the PiS-controlled Constitutional Court removed the risk of serious fetal malformation as a condition allowing for legal abortion, creating a climate of fear and mistrust among doctors and women.


Lawyer unfazed by Poland abortion rights case defeat at ECHR

Polish women challenging Warsaw's abortion laws at the European Court of Human Rights had their cases dismissed, but many more are still to come.

Ella Joyner in Brussels
Jun 8, 2023

A Polish lawyer who oversaw the case of eight women challenging their country’s abortion laws at the European Court of Human Rights told DW she was undeterred after their complaints were deemed inadmissible on Thursday.

"We were quite aware that the court might not agree with us at this point," Kamila Ferenc, a lawyer and vice-president of the Polish Foundation for Women and Family Planning (FEDERA), told DW on the phone.


European rights court rejects first case by Polish women claiming to be victims of abortion law

JUN 8, 2023
Notes from Poland

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a complaint by eight Polish women who claimed to be victims of their country’s recently introduced near-total ban on abortion. Around 1,000 such cases have been submitted to the ECHR, and this is the first time it has ruled on one.

“The court found that the applicants had failed to provide any convincing medical evidence proving that they had been at real risk of being directly affected by [the abortion law],” said the ECHR in a statement announcing today’s decision.


Outcry in Poland over abortion law

Two Polish hospitals refused to terminate the pregnancy of an underage rape victim. The case has sparked controversy over the country's restrictive legislation, with women's rights activists insisting it must be eased.

Jacek Lepiarz
February 5, 2023

A scandal is raging in Polish politics and in the media, concering the shocking case of a 14-year-old rape victim. The girl, who is from the Podlaskie region in northeastern Poland and has mental disabilities, was raped by her own uncle and became pregnant as a result. She was unaware of her condition, but her aunt noticed it and tried to help her get an abortion.

Although the girl had written confirmation from the public prosecutor that she was pregnant as the result of a crime, which gave her the right to a legal abortion, two hospitals in the region refused to carry out the procedure. The province of Podlaskie on the Belarusian border is a bastion of the right-wing conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has been in power in Poland since 2015.


Polish health minister ‘appalled’ girl, 14, struggled to get abortion after rape

Doctors at several hospitals cited a conscience clause to avoid treating the teenager who has a mental disability

Agence France-Presse in Warsaw
Mon 30 Jan 2023

Poland’s health minister has weighed in on a high-profile rape case, saying it was “unacceptable” that a mentally disabled 14-year-old girl struggled to get a legal abortion.

The case, in which doctors at several hospitals used a conscience clause to avoid carrying out the procedure, has sparked renewed calls to ease the Catholic country’s abortion laws, which are among Europe’s most stringent.


Disabled 14-year-old rape victim refused abortion in Poland by hospitals in her province

JAN 25, 2023
Notes from Poland

A 14-year-old disabled girl who became pregnant as a result of rape was refused an abortion by hospitals in her province, forcing her to travel across the country to the capital, Warsaw, to obtain a termination.

While doctors in Poland are allowed to refuse to perform an abortion under a so-called “conscience clause”, hospitals are required to inform patients where they can obtain a legal termination. In this case it appears that did not happen.


Women call for tougher EU stance on Poland’s abortion laws

At least six women have died in Poland after doctors refused to terminate their pregnancies due to the constitutional court’s ruling on abortions.

By Priyanka Shankar
Published On 18 Nov 2022

Brussels, Belgium – Fighting for justice and women’s rights in Poland has become an integral part of Barbara Skrobol’s life since September 22, 2021.

This was the day her sister-in-law, Izabela Sajbor, died of sepsis at a hospital in southern Poland after doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy after finding foetal defects, due to Poland’s stringent abortion rules.


Poland adds pregnancy to patient’s medical data

By The Associated Press
Sat., Oct. 1, 2022

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A new regulation that came into force in Poland Saturday requiring pregnancy information to be uploaded to the national digital system has raised concerns among women’s organizations that it could be another means for the conservative government to control women’s lives.

Women’s groups suggest the Health Ministry regulation would enable authorities to monitor pregnancies as another means of control in the country with a very strict anti-abortion law.