A groundbreaking win for FEDERA – mental health recognized as a reason for accessing abortion in Polish hospitals, says the National Patients’ Ombudsman

Foundation for Women and Family Planning FEDERA won a clear position on abortion in public hospitals from the Ombudsman for Patients’ Rights. Today there is no doubt: the refusal to terminate the pregnancy, despite the threat to the patient’s mental health identified by the psychiatrist, is a violation of the law.

FEDERA’s Legal Team represented a 26-year-old woman before the Patients’ Ombudsman. The woman was refused an abortion in December 2021 by the University Clinical Hospital in Bialystok. She had full documentation of the diagnosis of fetal acephaly and two medical certificates certifying that the continuation of the pregnancy constituted a risk to her mental health. Despite this, the hospital authorities refused to perform the procedure. In the written refusal, there was a quote: “Depression is not dangerous for a pregnant woman.” The decision of the hospital management was supported by the position of the ultra-conservative Ordo Iuris Foundation, known for its bill punishing women for abortion. From our perspective, a position that is completely non-medical and inconsistent with applicable law.

Forcing anyone to carry a pregnancy to term can lead to serious mental health effects, including adaptation disorders, post-traumatic stress, or suicidal thoughts. We can only imagine how difficult the mental state of a woman is when she finds out about a serious genetic defect in the fetus.

The patient, who was refused an abortion, contacted FEDERA seeking support.

I filed a complaint on her behalf and conducted proceedings before the Patients Ombudsman, who reacted strongly to such a blatant violation of the law. From his decision issued after examining the case, it follows that “health, the threat of which may constitute a premise for legal termination of pregnancy, should also be understood as the mental health of a pregnant woman (the legislator does not directly limit the possibility of terminating pregnancy only to cases when it poses a threat to physical health women)” – says Kamila Ferenc, the Patient’s attorney.

This is a great win, and the first step in recognizing that women’s well-being is above ideology, mental health is an equal part of it, and forced continuation of pregnancy is mental torture.

From now on, every patient who has a certificate from a psychiatric specialist that further pregnancy threatens her mental health may report to a public hospital and refer to the decision of the Patient Rights Ombudsman of March 13, 2023, ref. no. RzPP-DPR-WPZ.431.362.2021.PS.

As FEDERA, we are aware that this is a temporary solution until we achieve full liberalization and decriminalization of abortion. Forcing women to see a psychiatrist so that they can decide about their bodies and futures is an anachronism. But we have to manage somehow and use what little law we have left. We say clearly to every person in need of help: do not be afraid. FEDERA is always on your side. – adds Krystyna Kacpura, FEDERA’s President.