ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Two days ago, on Valentine’s Day, the Polish Government announced that it accepted a project proposing to restrict access to the only emergency contraception pill available over the counter. This project is to be discussed in plenary and voted upon in the next session of the Sejm, possibly already in March.

As result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and upon recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in January 2015 emergency contraceptive with ulipristal acetate, registered in Poland under the brand name ellaOne, received the authorization to be sold without prescription across the European Union (EU). The ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill (UPA ECP) became available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 contributing to rising the standard of reproductive health services and supplies for Polish women and girls, and expanding the postcoital contraceptive choices of women

In November 2016 the Polish Minister of Health announced that he is finalising a project which aims to restrict access to UPA ECPs and reinstate the provision of a mandatory doctor’s prescription for emergency contraceptives, citing the ‘misuse of the pill’ by teenage girls in Poland. Today we can see how his words were put into actions.

While there is limited data on the patterns of use of ECP among different age groups, a recent market study by Millward Brown, the biggest age group purchasing UPA ECPs are women between 25 and 30 years of age (45%), followed by those between 30 and 35 (18%). Young women below 18 make up around 2% of all buyers.

The planned restrictions would greatly impede the lives of women and girls and contribute to the sales of this product from unsafe sources and also cause a rise in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions in a country, where access to a safe and legal abortion is already incredibly difficult.

ASTRA together with ASTRA Youth, as part of coalition of civil society organizations working on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights – You Act, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception, sent a letter on December 1st, 2016, to the representatives of the European Commission, to voice our concern on the current developments in Poland with regards to women and girls’ reproductive health and rights. That letter was resent today and is available HERE.