Poland: Abortion debate flares up again

8 July 2011
Newsweek Polska

Newsweek Polska, 8 July 2011

“Abortion a phone call away”, headlines Newsweek Polska, noting that while Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe (only Malta and Ireland have stricter legislation in this regard), “having an abortion is easier than ordering a pizza”. There are two possibilities: private clinics abroad, e.g. in Slovakia, or their domestic equivalents that advertise in euphemistic terms in newspapers. In either case the procedure will cost at least €500. Last week, the Polish parliament received a civic draft of a law providing for the complete banning of abortion, backed by 600,000 signatures. “There is no reason for the state to maintain a legal licence to kill”, says Mariusz Dzierżawski, the initiative’s author.

Opponents argue that more restrictive legislation will only cause the “abortion underground” to flourish. Officially, only 538 legal abortions were carried out in this country of 38 million inhabitants in 2010, but unofficial statistics from the Federation for Women and Family Planning estimate the number of Polish women who have an abortion at over 100,000 annually. This means, writes Newsweek Polska, that existing legislation, in place since 1993, which allows a pregnancy to be aborted in only three cases (rape or incest, serious risk to mother’s life or health, or permanent and irreversible damage to the foetus) “practically doesn’t work”. Recent poll shows that the Polish public is split almost evenly on the issue, with 45 percent supporting legal abortion and 50 percent in favour of an absolute ban.