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

On October, 23 the “Save Women” Civic Committee tabled almost 500 000 signatures collected under the bill on women’s rights and conscious parenthood. The lower chamber has now three months to initiate a debate on the draft legislation. It is now the ruling party’s move to decide whether the draft will be sent to further proceeding – as promised in the election campaign, or if it will be rejected – as the practice up to now shows.  

The draft bill provides:
1) legal abortion financed from the state budget on demand until 12th week of pregnancy; after 12th week abortion would be performed due to a threat to woman’s health or life, in case of foetal malformation (until 24th week of pregnancy or if the foetus is unable to survive outside woman’s body without a deadline) and when pregnancy is a result of rape or incest (until 18th week of pregnancy);
2) free and accessible contraception;
3) emergency contraception available without medical prescription;
4) comprehensive sexuality education in schools;
5) obligation for hospitals and the National Health Fund to publish a list of doctors who invoke conscientious objection to deny performing legal abortions;
6) obligation for hospitals to find another doctor as a subcontractor who would perform an abortion when a physician hired by the hospital refuses to do so;
7) shorter deadline (7 days) for the Medical Commission to consider a patient’s complaint in case of refusal of abortion;
8) right for adolescents who have turned 15 years old to visit a gynaecologist, a urologist and a dermatologist without parental consent.

The record number of signatures – twice as many as in the last year’s campaign - was collected since August by grassroots voluntary groups, in dozens of cities, towns and villages in Poland and abroad. The action was supported by many extra-parliamentary opposition parties and numerous NGOs, including the Federation for Women and Family Planning and the Great Coalition for Equality and Choice (the list can be found here). The official threshold – 100 000 signatures – was reached within the first month, which illustrates enormous engagement of the volunteers and outstanding support among citizens. 

While the Law and Justice party (PiS) likes to justify disturbing, often undemocratic, procedures with the will of the people, the planned restrictions to the anti-abortion law do not enjoy the majority support. According to the latest opinion polls, 40 percent of citizens are for the liberalization, another 40 percent are in favour of the status quo and only 11 percent would prefer stricter laws.  
  
At the same time, anti-choice groups collect signatures under their bill “#StopAbortion” that foresees abortion ban in case of foetal malformation. The draft legislation is promoted by the bishops and Catholic churches nationwide and it supported by the most important politicians that have already declared their support, among others PM Szydło, President Duda, the leader of the ruling party Kaczyński. It is assumed that this bill came as a result of an unofficial deal between the PiS and the Episcopate (which openly favours a total ban).

- In less than a year the ruling party blocked the access to emergency contraception as well as restricted the IVF regulations. There is no true sexuality education. First the government will force women to give birth to incurably sick children and then it will forbid abortion in case of rape and incest. Polish women will soon end in hell – said Barbara Nowacka, representative of the “Save Women” committee.

Source: Save the Women