A 14-year-old woman was sexually abused by her uncle in Poland. The claim for an abortion was denied by several doctors.
Warsaw – It is appalling what happened in Poland: A 14-year-old girl with a mental disability was raped by her uncle. The perpetrator made the girl pregnant, who, according to the women’s rights organization Federa, did not understand that she now had a fetus in her. Only when the aunt discovered the crime did the injustice come to light.
The woman then tried to have an abortion on behalf of the victim. However, the request was rejected several times. The doctors concerned invoked religious beliefs that contradicted the desired intervention. With Federa’s help, a clinic was finally found in Warsaw that would perform the abortion.
Poland’s abortion law: threats of severe penalties make doctors despair when they intervene
The case is an example of the delicate situation prevailing in Poland regarding the issue of abortion. In 2021, the legislature tightened the regulations, and the national constitutional court ruled in 2020 that severely damaged embryos could no longer be aborted. In this respect, abortions are only permitted in Poland if the pregnancy results from a crime or endangers the health of the mother.
However, as the case described shows, the so-called conscience clause under Article 39 of the Medical and Dental Professions Act also applies in these situations. Accordingly, physicians are not obliged to provide health services that are incompatible with their conscience. Physicians fear not only consequences under labor law, but also criminal law, because an unlawful abortion is punishable by up to eight years in prison. Since the physicians are responsible for determining one of the exceptional circumstances, many shy away from performing the procedure.
Poland: Politics ‘appalled’ by impact of abortion law – ‘Barbaric and inhuman’
However, the current case caused a general outcry in Poland’s politics. There were several indignant voices from among the opposition representatives. According to Katarzyna Kotula from the Wiosna party, the “barbaric and inhumane” conscience clause should be abolished, and Barbara Nowacka from the citizens’ coalition announced a corresponding draft. But the government, which had previously followed a strict line with regard to abortion rights, also reacted to the case that had become public. The Health Minister of Poland, Adam Niedzielski, announced appropriate steps on Monday (January 30th): “We are appalled by this case and our reaction to it is unequivocal”.
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