Abortion in Poland

31 countries, including Poland, are clearing stating that abortion law is a sovereign matter;  the United Nations and international organisations can lobby and campaign for abortion policy change but do not have the right to provide or enable the provision of illegal abortion services.

Abortion law

This week, Poland’s constitutional tribunal ruled that abortion for reasons of fetal abnormality is unconstitutional. After this ruling comes into effect, abortion will only be legal to save the pregnant woman’s life or to preserve her physical health or in cases of rape or incest. Guttmacher considers this to be legal category 3, of 6; in its most recent report it places Poland alongside 35 other countries and with abortion laws which are more permissive than 65 others (there are a total of 193 countries categorised in this manner by Guttmacher).

Abortion numbers

The Guardian reported that there are fewer than 2,000 legal abortions in Poland each year and that perhaps as many as 200,000 Polish women travel to other countries for an abortion or procure abortion pills on-line. One could assume that these 200,000 are for reasons other than the legal grounds noted above.

These numbers and proportions are similar to the abortion statistics for England and Wales, in which 98% are performed under Ground C, which as we have discussed before, is largely interpreted by abortion providers as being on-demand by the choice of the woman for any reason.

Maternal Mortality Rate

Campaigners will often cite a country’s maternal mortality rate when making the case for liberalising abortion law or even decriminalisation. It might be interesting to note WHO data which shows MMR in Poland is 2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is an exceptionally low rate and compares favourably with its neighbour Germany and the UK, which both have more liberal abortion laws and an MMR of 7.

Geneva Consensus

Poland is a signatory to the Geneva Consensus Declaration, along with 31 other countries representing more than 1.6 billion people. This coalition is working to achieve better health for women, the preservation of human life, support for the family as foundational to a healthy society, and the protection of national sovereignty in global politics.

This declaration challenges the assertion by the United Nations that there is an international right to abortion. The Polish government chooses to decide and implement its own national laws governing abortion and considers that the UN et al. have no business interfering in these sovereign decisions.

Without apology, we affirm that governments have the sovereign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion. The stakes are too high to permit radical, divisive agendas to hinder the ability of women in countries at all stages of development to attain better health.

Alex Azar, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

Those international organisations which don’t agree, are free and able to campaign and lobby for policy change in these countries but they cannot and should not circumvent national laws by providing or enabling the provision of illegal abortion services.

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