On October 22, 2020, Poland’s highest court, The Polish Constitutional Court, placed further bans on the already very severe and unjust abortion laws in the country. The Tribunal has banned women’s access to abortions on the ground of “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life,” according to Amnesty International. This decision effectively limits the legal right to abortion in Poland, as there are only a few circumstances now that women are entitled to legal abortions in the country. These conditions being in situations of rape or when a women’s health is at risk, according to Human Rights Watch. This ruling is an attempt by the Polish government to nearly fully ban abortion rights for women. Days of protests have followed in the country as a result of this ruling.
Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, discussed this decision and stated, “Today’s judgement puts the health and lives of women in Poland at great risk and violates Poland’s obligations under international human rights treaties to refrain from retrogressive measures that roll-back women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health care.” Further discussing this controversial issue, Hillary Margolis, who is a senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch commented, “Instead of safeguarding and protecting people’s rights, Poland’s Constitutional Court has contributed to violating them.”
Though advancements have been and are continuing to be made towards women’s rights across the world, it is disturbing to witness an infringement on women’s reproductive rights. This ruling is unconstitutional and fails to grant women the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies. Poland is doing everything possible to essentially ban abortions based on social rights and not legal means. Women must now look into possibly unsafe methods or travel to other countries to access medically safe abortions. Those without the financial means or ability to obtain these safe and underground abortions are at risk because of Poland’s newest verdict.
According to Amnesty International, “Poland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. It is one of only two European Union member states that do not allow abortion on request or on broad social grounds.” Before the newest ruling, it was legal to obtain an abortion in circumstances where there was “severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’ life,” though this is no longer legal with the new law.
Poland’s attempt to limit all abortions in the country is a direct attack on women’s human rights. It is unconstitutional to take away a woman’s ability to make decisions regarding her own body. The lengths these women must now go to receive abortions may be harmful both to their mental and physical health. The international communities, human rights organizations, and other governing bodies across the EU must protest this decision and demand the court’s reversal of this new unjust ruling.
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