European Parliament condemns Poland's abortion law again

12-11-2021

Central Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Demonstration in Poland after the news that Izabela died before she could undergo an abortion. Photo AFP, Wojtek Radwanski

Poland must guarantee that women have access to safe and free abortion. That's the meaning of the European Parliament's resolution from Thursday.

The resolution was passed with 373 against 124 votes. The support also came from many MEP's of the Christian Democratic European People's Party (EPP).

Another demand in the resolution is that women must be free to travel for a pregnancy termination to another country. Poland has the policy to discourage "abortion tourism", but the organisation Abortion Without Borders claims that thousands of women receive help from them and that there is a real need.

Unborn life needs legal protection

The near-total ban on abortion results from a verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland from October 2020, saying that unborn life needs legal protection too. Termination of a pregnancy is only possible when the mother's life is in danger and when the pregnancy results from rape.

In the first ten months of this year, the number of legal abortions in Poland reached 300.

In September this year, the 30-year-old Izabela died because of a septic shock. The doctors felt that they had to wait for an abortion until the child had died. But when this happened, it was already too late to rescue the mother. The news that this had happened provoked outrage in Poland last weekend.

Restrictive legislation

The Polish government has responded to the unrest by saying that an abortion in this woman's case would have been legal so that her death could not be connected with the rules in the country. However, the lawyer of the late woman claims that the restrictive legislation is responsible for the death.

The European Parliament has condemned Poland repeatedly for its restrictive abortion policy. The EP also claimed this summer that access to abortion is a human right. Above that, this verdict by the Tribunal is seen as proof that the courts are taken over by the conservative nationalist movement of the governing PiS party.

MEP's voices

The Polish PiS MEP Witold Waszczykowski said in the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad that "there is no right to kill a human person. Abortion is no woman's right; that would violate the child's right to life."

Another Polish MEP, Danuta Hübner, from the Civic Platform, said she supported the resolution because "Polish women need our support." She sees it as the EP's duty to give a "voice to the sentiment in the European society, especially on issues that need to be defended, such as women's rights, which are under attack by governments everywhere."

The Dutch Christian MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen stated in the EP debate that the EU has no say in national abortion legislation, so the criticism on Poland was inappropriate. "Apart from that, we defend the present abortion law in Poland because it protects unborn life."

Council of Europe

Also, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, called on Poland this week to restore access to abortion. She sees that as fulfilling international and European legal obligations.

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