The Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, has stated that she supports a complete ban on abortion in Poland. She has said that she backs the 'Stop Abortion' campaign, that is collecting signatures in order to put forward a citizens' bill to parliament to completely outlaw abortion in the country. It also proposes that women (and not only doctors as is the case currently) can be imprisoned up to 5 years if they are caught having had an illegal abortion.
The campaign to completely outlaw abortion is being led by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. This week a letter published by the Presidium of the Polish Catholic Bishops' Conference, stated that Poland should not halt at the present 'compromise' on abortion, but move towards a total ban. This letter will be read out in Churches throughout Poland this week.
Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Abortion was made illegal in 1993, in a move that was ludicrously described as a 'compromise'. It banned abortion in all but three circumstances:
- where there is a high probability of severe and irreversible damage to the foetus or where it will have an incurable life-threatening disease
- where a pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health;
- where the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act.
It is worth remembering that in the early 1990s, the parliament rejected a petition signed by 1.5 million people for a referendum to be held on this matter. Also, the then President Lech Wałęsa vetoed a resolution passed in parliament in 1994, that would have eased some of the restrictions (allowing women in poor health or difficult social circumstances to terminate a pregnancy).
Last year only around 1,812 legal abortions were carried out in Poland (around 500 more than during 2013). The inevitable result of this situation is that huge numbers of Polish women are forced to either undergo illegal abortions or travel abroad to have their pregnancies terminated. It is obviously the least well off women, that are unable to travel abroad, who most often have to have illegal 'backstreet' abortion in Poland. It is estimated that around 150,000 illegal abortions take place in the country each year , which carry significant health risks.