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

From July 23rd emergency contraception is no longer available over the counter in Poland as a result of a bill proposed by the Polish Minister of Health that had been pushed through the lower house of the Parliament in May.

In May the mission of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality visited Warsaw in order to observe the situation of women’s rights in Poland; ASTRA and Federation for Women and Family Planning actively participated in the meeting with the MEPs. One of the issues discussed was access to contraception, especially emergency contraception that was made available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 as a result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and on recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In July three MEPs, Terry Reintke (Verts/ALE), Malin Björk (GUE/NGL) and Maria Arena (S&D) submitted parliamentary questions to the European Commission on the restrictions in the availability of emergency contraception in Poland:

1. Does the Polish Government’s categorization of the pill uphold the criteria laid down in Articles 70-71 of Directive 2001/83/EC?

2. Does the Polish Government’s bill introduce possible discrepancies in drug approval procedure and categorization, in violation of Directive 2001/83/EC?

On August 28th Commissioner Mr. Andriukaitis provided a reply on behalf of the European Commission stating, that the restrictions imposed by Poland are in fact in accordance with the EU legislation:  

The EU pharmaceutical legislation includes derogatory provisions when it comes to contraceptives and abortifacients, namely Article 4(4) of Directive 2001/83/EC(1). Under those derogations, Member States may prohibit or restrict the use of such products in their territory. In accordance with Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) 726/2004(2) this derogation can also be invoked for products, which have been authorised by the Commission on the basis of a scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency.