Poland’s Judiciary Rules to Further Restrict Abortion Access
IN THE WAKE OF AN AUTUMN 2020 judicial ruling that sparked massive protests and generated headlines internationally, in late January the uppermost court of Poland finally released its rationale on nearly eliminating abortion access. The release of this reasoning by the Constitutional Tribunal clears the path within Polish law for the verdict to be made public and the Oct. 22 ruling, which initiated months of unrest, to take effect. Stating that fetal abnormality as a cause for abortion access violates the Polish constitution, the ruling creates an environment where abortion is only legal in cases of rape, incest and the endangerment of the mother’s life.
As an estimated 98% of abortions in Poland are directly attributable to severe defects and fetal abnormalities, the practical consequences of the court solidifying its ruling into law are devastating. Throughout the reproductive rights sphere and legislatures across Europe, many view the ruling as the result of an increasingly interconnected relationship between Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice Party and certain powerful elements within the Vatican—a relationship that has grown more pronounced since PiS first put forward deeply restrictive abortion access legislation in 2016.
A majority of lawmakers in the European Union have roundly criticized the move, referring to the ruling as “bleak and inhumane” as well as placing women in a position where they will frequently be forced to “give birth to a corpse.” Already the subject of an Article 7 procedure—a censure that can extend to the suspension of country’s voting rights in the governing council— within the EU for passing domestic legislation that undermines judicial independence, members of European Parliament are now calling an additional Article 7 procedure to be lodged against Poland. “What else has to happen,” Terry Reintke of the German Green Party put to colleagues while commenting on Poland’s publishing of the ruling, “so that we finally see true commitment from the European Commission for European values and for the fundamental rights of European citizens?”
While anti-choice advocates have initiated a billboard campaign to bolster nationwide sentiment for the court’s published ruling, the All-Poland Women’s Strike—responsible for the historic, ongoing opposition to abortion restriction in Poland—has warned of more demonstrations in the face of this recent development.