In 2016, with proposed legislation to completely outlaw abortion, 30,000 women went on strike and marched in cities across the country to protest the legislation, leading high-ranking politicians to distance themselves from the proposed law. Just three days after the strike, lawmakers voted against the new law.
Poland is one of the few countries in the world to outlaw abortion after decades of liberal legislation (during Communist rule). Polish women often seek abortion in neighboring countries due to the strict restraints in their own country.
Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, along with a group of other traditionally Catholic countries of the region (Malta, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Vatican, Monaco and Andorra). 
In Poland, abortion is banned except in the following three circumstances.
Unlike in other countries where abortion is banned, women in Poland are not subject to a penalty for illegal termination of pregnancy. Consent of a physician is required for circumstances (1) and (3) above, while abortions in view of circumstance (2) above must be certified by prosecutor. Parental consent is always required if the woman seeking abortion is a minor.
In addition, persuading a woman to carry out illegal termination of her pregnancy is a criminal act.
Until 1932, abortion was banned in Poland without exceptions. In that year, the new Penal Code legalised abortion only when there were medical reasons and, for the first time in Europe, when the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act. Except during the German occupation during the Second World War, this law was in effect from 1932 to 1956. In Nazi Germany, which included territories of Poland 1939-1945, the penalties for abortion were increased, especially for providing an abortion to an "Aryan" woman. Abortion was permitted if the foetus was deformed or disabled. In 1956 the Sejm legalised abortion in cases where the woman was experiencing "difficult living conditions". The interpretation of the change in the law varied from a restrictive interpretation, in the late 1950s, to one in where abortion was allowed on request, in the 1960s and 1970s. It was not uncommon that women from countries where abortions were restricted, such as Sweden, travelled to Poland to carry out abortions which were accessible and affordable there.
The procedural requirements needed for obtaining a legal abortion were changed several times over the years, in 1956, 1959, 1969, 1981 and 1990. The most important change was that of 1990, after the end of Communist rule, when Ordinance of 30 April 1990 made access to abortion more difficult. A major change came in 1993, when the law was further tightened, removing entirely the "difficult living conditions" as a ground for abortions. As such, abortions could be legally obtained only in cases of serious threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman, as attested by two physicians, cases of rape or incest confirmed by a prosecutor, and cases in which prenatal tests, confirmed by two physicians, demonstrated that the foetus was seriously and irreversibly damaged. This law remains in place today.
Poland is a country strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism, and religion often influences politics and social views. Abortion is a controversial topic in Polish politics. The question of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment was one of the reasons for the split in the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the creation of Prawica Rzeczypospolitej, led by Marek Jurek.
Law and Justice, abbreviated to PiS, is a national-conservative, and Christian democratic political party in Poland. With 237 seats in the Sejm and 66 in the Senate, it is currently the largest party in the Polish parliament.
In June 2011, Polish pro-life NGOs collected over 500,000 signatures for a proposed bill to ban abortion in Poland altogether. The bill, while rejected by a majority of the MPs, got enough support to be sent to a Sejm committee in order to be subject to further amendments. The move was criticised by two right-wing opposition parties, Law and Justice and Poland Comes First, which expressed their support for the bill. The left-wing Democratic Left Alliance pursues a pro-choice policy and was against the bill. The ruling Civic Platform, while considering itself in favour of the current legislation on abortion in Poland, was divided on the matter; more than 60 of the party's MPs voted in favour of the bill.
In April 2016, Polish organizations proposed amended legislation to ban abortion in all cases except to save the woman's life. The bill included penalties to abortion providers with up to five years of imprisonment. The bill passed and was debated in Sejm, beginning 22 September 2016. The Sejm voted with majority in favour of continuing work on the bill. A competing bill, proposing liberalisation of abortion laws and also supported by a civil initiative that succeeded in gathering the required number of signatures, was rejected outright in the same session of Sejm. If the law had passed, Poland's abortion restrictions would have mirrored those of Malta and the Vatican, the two countries in Europe with the harshest restrictions on abortion.
On 22 September 2016, on the day when the bill to ban abortion was debated in Sejm, the Razem party organized a demonstration called "Czarny Protest" ("Black Protest"), initiated by party member Małgorzata Adamczyk. This was part of a larger campaign, in which people published selfies in black clothing in social media, tagged #czarnyprotest (#blackprotest). In the subsequent days, similar protests were being organized in other Polish cities, such as Wrocław, Łódź and Kraków. Thousands of people took part in the protests in various parts of Poland. On 1 October 2016, a large protest also took place near the Sejm building, organized by Barbara Nowacka of Inicjatywa Polska, who had collected signatures under a citizens' bill to liberalize the Polish abortion law.
On 3 October 2016, thousands of Polish women went on strike to oppose the proposed legislation for a total ban on abortion, called "Czarny Poniedziałek" ("Black Monday"), originally proposed in a Facebook post by Polish actress Krystyna Janda. The women modeled their strike on the successful strike for women's rights in Iceland in 1975, refusing to attend school, work, or participate in domestic chores. The pro abortion protesters marched in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Łódź, Wrocław, and Kraków, and demonstrators across Europe marched in solidarity. Approximately 98,000 protestors showed up to decry the new bill. Supporters of the new legislation held counterprotests and Catholic Masses to express alignment with the abortion ban.
By 5 October 2016, politicians were distancing themselves from the proposed legislation. On 6 October, lawmakers voted the bill down with plans to present a counterproposal from the government.
In 2016, Foreign Policy magazine included Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk of the Razem party and Barbara Nowacka of Inicjatywa Polska, on its annual list of the 100 most influential global thinkers for their role in organizing protests against a total ban on abortion in Poland. In 2018, Forbes magazine included Marcelina Zawisza on its annual European Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the "Law & Policy" category for her role as a co-founder of Razem and one of the organizers of "black protest".
In the latest poll on abortion by the CBOS Public Opinion Research Center, 69% of Poles view abortion as immoral and unacceptable, 14% of Poles are ambivalent towards it and 14% view it as acceptable. Half of Poles oppose the right to abortion, but only one in seven (14%) supports the complete ban of all abortions, while more than one-third (36%) believe there should be exceptions. At the same time, almost half (45%) think that abortion should be permitted. In this group, 7% support abortion without restrictions, and 38% would like to see some restrictions to abortion rights.
Surveys indicate a conservative turn in the 1990s. Although the supporters of legal abortion prevailed, the difference continuously narrowed. In 2006, when the discussion about introducing a constitutional ban on abortion was publicly conducted, the opponents of legal abortion were for the first time more numerous than supporters of abortion rights. At present the proportions have returned to 2007 levels, when both groups were about equal in size.
Most Poles accept abortion in cases when it is legal under current law. The support for abortion rights when mother's life is in danger is almost universal (87%). Over three-quarters of respondents think that it should be available for women whose pregnancy threatens their health (78%), or was caused by rape or incest (78%). Three-fifths (60%) support the right to abortion if it is known that the child would be handicapped.
The support for legal abortion in cases when it is currently banned is much lower. About a quarter think that it should be legal if the woman is in a difficult material (26%) or personal (23%) situation. Almost one in five respondents (18%) think abortion should be legal if a woman does not want to have a child.
A poll from 2013 showed that 49% of Poles support current legislation on abortion, 34% think it should be liberalised and 9% think it should be more restrictive.
A CBOS poll from 2013 found that 75% of Poles think abortion is "always wrong and can never be justified". Only 7% thought there was "nothing wrong with it and could always be justified".
A CBOS poll from February 2014 found that a majority (65%) found abortion morally inappropriate and only 27% found it appropriate, a drop of 4% in comparison to a 2009 poll.
A CBOS poll from November 2014 found that a majority (55%) of Poles oppose abortion on request, with only 37% supporting it. Furthermore, 71% of Poles believe that abortion on request is inappropriate, with 20% thinking it is appropriate.
In a Pew Research poll from 2017, 8% of Polish respondents believed abortion should be legal in all cases and 33% that it should be legal in most cases. On the other hand, 38% believed that it should be illegal in most cases and 13% that it should be illegal in all cases.
In Poland, the vast majority of abortions takes place illegally, as obtaining a legal abortion is very difficult, both due to the restrictive legal grounds and because of many doctors refusing to perform lawful abortions due to being conscientious objectors. Estimates of illegal abortions per year put the numbers between 10,000 and 150,000, compared to only 1,000 - 2,000 legal abortions.
A more recent study even estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Polish women terminate their pregnancies each year, with 10 to 15% of them estimated to seek their abortion abroad. For those women going abroad, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are among the more popular destinations for abortions, with the UK, Austria, and Ukraine other countries women travel to for abortions. Despite the strict legislation and the conservative political discourse, Poland has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe.
Abortion-rights movements, also referred to as pro-choice movements, advocate for legal access to induced abortion services. The issue of induced abortion remains divisive in public life, with recurring arguments to liberalize or to restrict access to legal abortion services. Abortion-rights supporters themselves are frequently divided as to the types of abortion services that should be available and to the circumstances, for example different periods in the pregnancy such as late term abortions, in which access may be restricted.Abortion in Malta
The de jure legal status of abortion in Malta holds that the practice is illegal. Malta is the only country in the European Union to prohibit abortion entirely. However, abortions are de facto allowed to save the mother's life.The Criminal Code states:"(1) Whosoever, by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from 18 months to three years"; and
"(2) The same punishment shall be awarded against any woman who shall procure her own miscarriage, or who shall have consented to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured."
In 2005 Tonio Borg, a Maltese politician, sought to amend the constitution to completely ban abortion.It is estimated that anywhere between 300 to 400 Maltese women travel abroad to have abortions each year, mostly to the UK (about 60 per year) and Italy, with Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium being some of the other destinations as well. This estimate means that Maltese women have abortions about as often as the EU average, despite Malta being the only EU country which bans the procedure (the rate for Malta is between 3.6 and 4.7 per thousand women; the EU average is 4.4).Abortion under communism
Communist and Marxist ideologies generally allow state-provided abortion, although there is no consensus among Communist parties and governments about how far into the pregnancy abortion should be allowed.Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk
Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk (born 20 January 1984 in Wrocław, Poland) is a Polish social activist and politician. Between December 2015 and February 2019 she was a member of the National Board of the Razem (Together) party.In 2016, Foreign Policy magazine included Dziemianowicz-Bąk, together with Barbara Nowacka, on its annual list of the 100 most influential global thinkers for their role in organising the "black protest" against a total ban on abortion in Poland.Dziemianowicz-Bąk also represented Razem in the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) pan-European organisation.Barbara Nowacka
Barbara Anna Nowacka (born 10 May 1975) is a Polish politician. A left activist in Labour United, and later in Your Movement, in October 2015 she became leader of the United Left coalition for the Polish parliamentary election, 2015, bringing together Labour United, Your Movement, the Democratic Left Alliance, the Greens, and the Polish Socialist Party.Feminism in Poland
The history of feminism in Poland has traditionally been divided into seven periods, beginning with the 19th century first-wave feminism. The first four early periods coincided with the foreign partitions of Poland, which resulted in the elimination of the sovereign Polish state for 123 years.Jarosław Gowin
Jarosław Adam Gowin (born 4 December 1961) is a Polish conservative politician and editor. Gowin served as Minister of Justice in the cabinet of Prime Minister Donald Tusk between 2011 and 2013, and is the current Minister of Science and Higher Education in the cabinet of Mateusz Morawiecki.Kasia Babis
Katarzyna Monika (Kasia) Babis (born 20 December 1992 in Lublin) is a Polish author of comic books, cartoonist, illustrator, painter, author of children's books and political activist. She has used the pseudonyms Kiciputek and Kittypat.Marcelina Zawisza
Marcelina Monika Zawisza (born 3 May 1989 in Katowice, Poland) is a Polish social activist and left-wing politician. She is a member of the National Board of the Razem (Together) party.P. and S. v. Poland
P. and S. v. Poland is a decision by the European Court of Human Rights in which the court ruled that the state of Poland had improperly hindered a 14-year-old girl in Lublin, P., from her right to an abortion. The other plaintiff in the case was S., her mother, born in 1974.P. had become pregnant in 2008. Polish law allows abortion if the pregnancy is the consequence of a criminal act. In accordance with the law, on 20 May 2008, P. received a certificate from the public prosecutor attesting that she could get an abortion because she was fourteen, and sexual intercourse with minors below the age of fifteen is a crime. P. and S. went to two hospitals in Lublin to have an abortion performed, but the hospitals refused. A gynecologist at one of the hospitals brought her to see a Roman Catholic priest without asking her permission, and the priest urged her not to have an abortion. Following an argument with S., the gynecologist refused to perform the abortion. Hospital officials issued a press release about the case, following which P.'s situation was nationally debated. After her case became publicly known, P. was harassed by anti-abortion activists.P. and S. then went to a hospital in Warsaw. Doctors there expressed reluctance to perform the procedure, stating that they were under pressure not to do so. P. and S. were then taken in for police questioning, and S. accused of attempting to force P. to have an abortion. P. was then placed in a juvenile shelter, and authorities began proceedings to take custody of the girl away from S. After a complaint by S. to the Ministry of Health, P. was allowed to have an abortion in Gdańsk.The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the "prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment". The court stated that P.'s difficulties increased due to "the lack of a clear legal framework, procrastination of medical staff and also as result of harassment". The decision went on to note that "[t]he court was particularly struck that the authorities started criminal proceedings for illicit sexual relations against the adolescent who, according to the prosecutor and medical reports, should have been considered the victim of sexual abuse". Poland was ordered to pay €15,000 to P. and €30,000 to S., and €16,000 to each for court costs.Following the ruling, Amnesty International urged Poland to "take urgent steps to ensure women and girls have full access to sexual and reproductive health". The Irish Times stated that the decision had implications for Ireland, which had a pending case regarding a failure to provide a legal framework for abortion.Tysiąc v Poland
Tysiąc v. Poland (Application no. 5410/03) was a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2007. A pregnant woman from Poland, diagnosed with a severe eye disease, tried to get an abortion to avoid an escalation of her disease. Her requests were rejected by several medical doctors and she underwent labor of her third child. Her condition later deteriorated, and she sued one of the doctors. Her criminal lawsuits were rejected in Poland and the case was appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which accepted one part of the complaint, and the plaintiff was awarded damages.
Abortion in Europe
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