SRHR-RELATED NEWS IN POLAND
Case of Dorota from Nowy Targ
At the end of May, a woman named Dorota died in the hospital as a result of refusal of live saving abortion care. She was admitted to a hospital in the town of Nowy Targ on 21 May when her waters broke in the fifth month of pregnancy. She wasn’t informed that the probability of keeping the pregnancy is minimal and brings enormous risk for her health and life. Dorota died of septic infection in the third day following her admission to the hospital. The case gained nation-wide attention, sparked rage against doctors, Poland-wide protests, and evoked fiery discussion about standards of medical care provided to patients needing abortion.
The Minister of Health, Adam Niedzielski held the conference and announced formation of a special ministerial expert task force to develop guidelines for hospitals on providing abortion care.
FEDERA requested to be part of this expert team and sent the letter to the Minister with the recommendations on what these guidelines should include.
FEDERA representatives, Kamila Ferenc and Antonina Lewandowska participated in the session of the Parliamentary Group on Reproductive Rights which was dedicated to discuss the circumstances of Dorota case. FEDERA representatives spoke about FEDERA role in helping to exercise access to legal abortion in Polish hospitals and shared the experience of antenatal violence women suffer in healthcare facilities. Emphasis was made on the recommendations for legal reform and change of practice addressed to the Ministry of Health.
FEDERA has also sent a letter to political parties about the imperative to decriminalise abortion. The answers on all parties’ stand on this issue will later be used to advocate for decriminalisation during electoral campaigns before the Polish parliamentary elections this autumn.
The story has been made public by Fakty TVN on 18 July. In April this year Joanna took abortion pill. She was not feeling well so she consulted her psychiatrist and told about her abortion. The doctor called the police. Joanna was found at her home and escorted to the hospital for a gynecological examination by several policemen who surrounded her. She was ordered to undress, do squats and cough even though she was still bleeding. They also seized the woman’s computer and phone.
The police has argued that their intervention was necessary to check whether someone had assisted the woman in terminating her pregnancy, which is an act punishable by up to three years in prison under Article 152 § 2 of Polish criminal code. Joanna emphasized that no one helped her to terminate the pregnancy, this was her decision. The prosecutors confirmed that an investigation is underway into the crimes of aiding or soliciting suicide and assisting a woman in terminating her pregnancy.
FEDERA lawyer, Kamila Ferenc is Joanna’s legal representative and she filed a complaint to the court against the seizure of Joanna’s belongings. FEDERA monitors the situation and will assist Joanna with anything she might need to prove her innocence, substantiate the abuse of powers by public officers and to claim for compensation. The Ombudsman for Patient’s Rights and Ombudsman for Human Rights have already initiated the proceedings into this case.
On 27 July Joanna, FEDERA representatives, politicians and other organisations and experts were speaking on the session of the Parliamentary Group on Women’s Rights were the case of Joanna has been discussed. Please follow FEDERA’s Facebook Page for most recent posts and updates on Joanna’s case.
Deleting abortion from the criminal code should be an imperative for all reasonable policy makers. The extend of harm caused by criminalization of abortion calls for immediate legal change.
Marches of solidarity with Joanna and against police oppression were held in front of police headquarters on 25 July 2023 in Cracow, Warsaw and other cities.
On 26 July 2023 Wysokie Obcasy published the article on Ola, another victim of abortion obsession and institutional violence against woman in need of reproductive care in Poland.
Ola case goes back to 2022. Before giving birth to her son in 2019, Ola’s attempts to get pregnant were marked by miscarriages due to her gynecological condition. In 2022, she became pregnant again and this was wanted pregnancy. In the 18th week of pregnancy, she began to feel unwell, had severe cramps and fever. She miscarried at home and the ambulance transported her to the hospital for medical checkup.
Straight after, the police came to Ola’s house and to the hospital as well. Although the woman was very weak, the policemen insisted on entering the room and questioning her. The officers followed her step by step. Blood was taken for test following police’s prescription.
As she was leaving the hospital, the policeman asked if she had flushed the toilet. “Before I managed to get home, I found out that the policemen were already waiting in my house, because the prosecutor ordered the septic tank to be pumped out” – said Ola to Wysokie Obcasy. The septic tank was pumped out with the purpose to look for the remnants of the fetus allegedly flushed to the toilet.
The District Prosecutor in Warsaw initiated proceedings for assistance in abortion. In October 2022, after almost half a year the proceedings were discontinued. “ – I haven’t committed any crime. It was a miscarriage, a tragedy for me, and I was treated, at the prosecutor’s request, like a garbage – said Ola.
FEDERA’s lawyer is representing Ola and is currently collecting evidence to ensure adequate legal actions in her case.
Federa news and projects
A new long-term project about systemic violence against women – HISTORIEKOBIET.eu
Mid-June, FEDERA has launched a new long-term project called Historie Kobiet (Women’s Stories). The idea behind the project is to empower women who have suffered antenatal and gynaecological violence in the public healthcare system.
FEDERA’s SRHR support for Ukrainian refugees
Gynecological helpline in Ukrainian language available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 17-21 pm, tel. +48 573 185 628.
For the 1 year anniversary of the Russian invasion on Ukraine FEDERA drafted a report on the activities responding to the needs of Ukrainian refugees as regards SRHR. Among these are:
LEAFLET ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE FOR WOMEN REFUGEES and information on our legal helpline I Ukrainian and Polish here
Brochures in Ukrainian and Russian about contraception, emergency contraception, sexually transmitted infections and growing up guide (for adolescents). Links below:
- Contraception: Ukrainian, Russian language versions;
- Emergency contraception: Ukrainian, Russian language versions;
- Sexually transmitted infections: Ukrainian, Russian language versions;
- Growing up guide for adolescents (Ponton): Ukrainian, Russian language versions
CARE IN CRISIS: FAILURES TO GUARANTEE THE SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS OF REFUGEES FROM UKRAINE IN HUNGARY, POLAND, ROMANIA, AND SLOVAKIA
On 16 May FEDERA and other organisations that have been engaged in the joint fact-finding since June 2022 launched the publication documenting the experiences of adult refugee women from Ukraine who needed access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence support services.
FEDERA, Feminoteka, Center for Reproductive Rights and partner organisations from Hungary, Slovakia and Romania were in the European Parliament to present the report “Care in Crisis. Failures to guarantee the sexual and reproductive health and rights of refugees from Ukraine in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.” Since Federa has been closely involved in the research for the fact finding as regards the situation in Poland, the organisation’s International Advocacy Coordinator Urszula Grycuk presented the findings of the report as regards access to SRHR and GBV support services for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
The event was co-chaired by the Members of the European Parliament: Robert Biedron, Predrag Fred Matić, Alice Bah Kuhnke, Malin Björk, Frances Fitzgerald, Nicu Ștefănuță. Individual meetings were also held with other EMPs, permanent representatives of member states in Brussels and EC representatives who were interested in our findings.
Our statement referred to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants following his visit to Poland and Belarus.
FEDERA welcomed the attention given by the Special Rapporteur to the consequences of the restrictive abortion law and the recommendation to address the obstacles to legal abortion faced by refugee women in Poland. Read the full statement here.
Amicus brief to the European Court of Human Rights in the case V.M. v. Poland
FEDERA and the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted amicus curiae brief to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of V.M. and others v. Poland (application number 40002/22). The complaint concerns an Armenian national and her children who were detained in the Center for Foreigners in Biała Podlaska. V. M. suffered a miscarriage during her detention, while waiting for her asylum application to be examined. In this amicus brief we describe the obligations on States under international human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to immigration detention of pregnant women, including obligations to guarantee access to sexual and reproductive services for pregnant women in detention.
Update on antigender movement in Poland
Draft bill banning gender affirming surgery for minors
The Ordo Iuris Institute has published a draft law banning the gender affirming surgery for minors. Draft prohibits administration of hormone blockers, as well as prohibiting surgery interventions.
Ordo Iuris has also applied for a break in the sentence of a girl who had been convicted of robbery. The convict is an activist of a neo-fascist organisation. In 2020, together with 3 others, she tried to snatch a rainbow bag from a young lady, using “violence in the form of pulling, pushing and twisting the third finger of the left hand”. She was released from prison on the decision of Prosecutor General and Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.
For detailed information about all our activities please check both Polish and English websites, our FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts.