Activists say Polish women seeking abortion panic as restrictions take effect

by Reuters
Thursday, 28 January 2021 19:30 GMT

A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the verdict restricting abortion rights in Warsaw, Poland, January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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As Poland's government put into effect a near total ban on abortion, women seeking termination are calling advice services in panic

By Joanna Plucinska and Kuba Stezycki

WARSAW, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Polish women with scheduled abortions are calling advice services in panic, activists said, as Poland's government put into effect a ruling banning terminations of pregnancies with foetal defects, which amounts to a near total abortion ban.

The ruling, first announced on Oct. 22 last year by the Constitutional Tribunal, led to weeks of massive protests, forcing the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government to delay its implementation.

Thousands protested across Poland as they waited for the court's verdict to be published in the official gazette late on Wednesday. On Thursday, hundreds gathered in Warsaw and other cities.

"I picked up about ten of these calls during the night " Krystyna Kacpura, director of Poland's Federation for Women and Family Planning (Federa) told Reuters on Thursday.

"They were (from women but) also from doctors and gynecologists asking if this is in place, what should they do. 'The patient is ready for the procedure - should I send her home?'"

Under the new rules, terminations will be permitted only in cases of rape and incest, and when the mother's life or health is endangered. Doctors performing illegal abortions in Poland face jail.

Abortions Without Borders, a support group helping women get abortions abroad whose number was spraypainted around Poland after the initial wave of protests, said it had received at least 30 calls from women by noon on Thursday.

Justyna Wydrzynska, a member of the support team, told Reuters she expected to have at least 100 calls by the end of the day.

"You are not alone, we are with you and we are doing all we can so that everyone who contacts us gets all the support they need as soon as possible," she said.

MOVING FORWARD

Polish conservatives who supported the new limitations rejoiced as the ruling came into full force on Thursday, arguing that they had finally secured equal human rights for unborn children and were shielding women from the trauma of abortion.

"There's a Polish saying that it's better to have ten children on your arm than one on your conscience, and I think this is part of our philosophy to protect life," said Maria Kurowska, a member of parliament representing socially conservative grouping United Poland, allied with the ruling nationalists.

Supporters of the ruling insisted that it's now up to the Polish government to provide additional support to families that have to care for disabled and sick children. (Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kuba Stezycki Editing by Alexandra Hudson)