Abortion Support Network’s new focus on Poland advertised by leading left-wing newspaper, prompting reactions from lawyers’ organization and children’s ombudsman
By Olivier Bault.
Poland – Poland’s leading left-wing pro-abortion newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, devoted its front page on Thursday, December 12, to the opening from December 11 of a dedicated abortion fund for Polish women. The operation is being conducted by the Abortion Support Network (ASN), a British-based organization which provides financial and practical assistance to women who want to have an abortion but live in countries where it is illegal. In its front page article, the Polish newspaper gave all the necessary details for Polish women who might be considering an abortion, together with a special number one can call to get information about how to obtain abortion pills or arrange a surgical abortion in another European country, depending on the time of pregnancy. Together with the ASN, six organizations from four different countries are joining their pro-abortion efforts in an initiative called “Abortion Without Borders,” according to Gazeta Wyborcza. Two Polish organizations are among them, including a so-called “Abortion Dream Team.”
Poland’s abortion law, which dates from 1993, is very restrictive by European standards. According to Polish law, a baby can only be aborted in three cases: when the mother’s life or physical health is at risk because of her pregnancy (with no time limit), when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest (up to 12 weeks), or when a baby is diagnosed in the womb with a serious and incurable defect or disease (up to 24 weeks). Every year, a little over 2000 abortions are legally performed in Polish hospitals, according to data available from the national insurer NFZ, although the official statistics published by the ministry of health show only about half that number, based on declarations from the country’s hospitals and medical centers. Before 1993, the communist-era abortion law allowed free abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.
In the December 12 edition of Gazeta Wyborcza, an activist from the Polish “Abortion Dream Team” named Germany, the Netherlands and Britain as the countries where women who are over 12 weeks pregnant will be able to travel for an abortion with costs paid by the Abortion Support Network. Polish women are promised full assistance for their medical visits, including a translator and accommodation. In the case of women qualifying for pharmaceutical abortion, abortion pills are to be sent by a Dutch group called Women Help Women, even though, as the pro-abortion daily itself admits, it is illegal to import medicines into Poland by mail without the necessary official permissions. But Gazeta Wyborcza not only devoted the lion’s share of the front page of its December 12 edition to publicizing the ASN’s offer for Polish women — it also published a sympathetic editorial comment on its second page, comparing Poland’s situation to that of the Republic of Ireland a short time ago, while the whole of its ninth page was taken up with an interview with Mara Clarke, who founded the Abortion Support Network in 2009.
Clarke explained to Gazeta Wyborcza’s readers that women can obtain abortion on demand until the end of the 24th week of pregnancy in Britain and the Netherlands, and that she intends to make such abortions available to Polish women as well, after having done so for Irish women for 10 years, before abortion was made legal in the Republic of Ireland last December. “After the Irish referendum we have fewer clients from Ireland,” she explained, “so we have come to the conclusion that we can transfer money to Poland.” In the same interview, Mara Clarke also claims that abortion pills are safer than drugs like Viagra or paracetamol, and that Polish women who do not qualify for chemically-induced abortions will be informed about a country where they can abort their baby, depending on the stage of their pregnancy.
The Polish children’s ombudsman reacted on the very day of Gazeta Wyborcza’s publication by announcing on Twitter that he would be making a report to prosecutors against “Abortion Without Borders,” as encouraging, organizing and financing illegal abortion is a crime in Poland. A lawyers’ organization, the Ordo Iuris Institute, also announced on December 12 that it was filing a notice to the prosecutor’s office. Lawyer Jerzy Kwaśniewski, the chairman of Ordo Iuris, wrote on Twitter that the notice was ready and that it concerned “the outrageous announcement of assistance to commit an illegal act (prenatal murder).”
While announcing that services offered by the Abortion Support Network are being made available for Polish women from December 11, Gazeta Wyborcza quotes the number of 100,000 illegal abortions which feminist organizations say are performed in Poland each year. This number is not based on any set of hard data, however, and it has been used for years, along with another “estimate” of double that number, to convince Poles that abortion should be made legal to the same degree as in other European countries.
When in 1997 a post-communist SLD-dominated government added to the 1993 abortion law an amendment allowing abortions motivated by the socio-economic situation of pregnant women, the country’s constitutional court overturned it, stating that it went too far in violating the right to life enshrined in the Polish constitution. During the time of nearly a year when it was in force, “only” 3,047 abortions were performed, including 2,524 on socio-economic grounds, such abortions being performed legally and at no cost to the mother of the aborted child. One might ask how on earth the number of abortions on demand could have rocketed to the sky-high level of 100,000 or 200,000 a year just after they were again made illegal, and hence more difficult to access and much more expensive.
According to an IBRIS poll published on December 9 by the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper, 49.9% of Poles are in favor of leaving the current abortion law as it is, and 14.9% would like access to abortion to be even more restricted. Only 28.7% support liberalizing the abortion law. In last October’s parliamentary elections in Poland, The Left, a coalition of three leftist parties led by the SLD, was alone in advocating a liberalization of the abortion law, and it obtained less than 13% of the popular vote.