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Near-total ban on abortion in Poland has been enforced.

By Shannon Lennox

After months of protests fighting the near total ban on abortion in Poland, the government announced the ban will take effect from midnight on Wednesday.

The ruling made in October 2020 by the Constitutional Court deemed the 1993 law which allows abortion  only in cases of severe foetal abnormalities as unconstitutional. 98% of abortions in Poland in 2019 were carried out on those terms, meaning the Constitutional Court has effectively banned all abortions.

 Poland’s conservative government has lasting ties to the country’s Catholic Church and were in full support of the ban.

A new statement released by charity Abortion Support Network show just how many women in Poland are affected by the new ban.

Initially, the Abortion Support Network helpline was taking 250 calls from people each month. After the constitutional tribunal tightened the abortion law, the helpline numbers increased to on average 2,700 at the beginning of October, and 2,500 calls from the end of October to the first week of December.

Mara Clarke, founder of Abortion Support Network stated that the ongoing protests helped in advertising her charity to those in need:

 “They were chanting the name of our initiative ‘Abortion without borders’,  holding up our phone number, spray painting our phone number on bus shelters and church doors. Somebody recently put up a billboard with our phone number on it. It’s amazing.

“Covid-19 did not stop us helping people get abortions and a ‘constitutional tribunal’ will not stop us either. If someone needs an abortion at home with pills, we will help them. If someone needs an abortion abroad, we will help them.”

Karolina Wieckiewicz and Natalia Broniarczyk from Abortion Dream Team said: “People are now on their own. Just like the tens of thousands of other people every year whose abortions are neglected by the law. For us, access to abortion and fighting for a world in which no person with the experience of abortion feels shame is far more important than laws.”

More protesters took to the streets of Poland after the government announced the ban would come into force immediately.

Protest in Gdansk. Credit: Lukasz Katlewa

Malgorzata Szuleka,  lawyer and head of advocacy at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw,  stated that in legal terms, nothing can be done to reverse or change this ban:

“From the legal perspective there is no way to challenge the decision of the constitutional tribunal, we can’t do anything about it. When it comes to individual cases, even though the termination of pregnancy in Poland is illegal a woman can still travel to other countries to terminate pregnancy. In individual cases there is financial support from charities for women who want to have an abortion.”

This ban has had a massive impact on Polish women all over the world. Natalia, a Polish student studying in Glasgow, shared the impact this has had on her:

“Poland is a beautiful place geographically speaking but the governmental powers make it one of the ugliest places on the planet. Knowing my female family members have had their rights taken from them, it worries me greatly.

“One thing I found encouraging was the response Glasgow had to the court ruling. Seeing so many people who were not even Polish come out and fight for us in protest.

I cannot fathom that in 2021, women are still needing to fight for their basic rights. It is disgusting.”

If you are in Poland and need help accessing an abortion you can call Abortion Support Network on +48 725 892 134, email administracja@maszwybor.net or visit the Abortion Support Network website here.

Listen to Malgorzata’s full interview here:

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