Evolution of the Abortion Law and its Practice in Poland Against the Background of the Current Legal Framework in New Zealand

Author: Eska-Mikołajewska, J1

Published in National Security Journal, 05 April 2021


Download full PDF version – Evolution of the Abortion Law and Its Practice in Poland Against the Background of the Current Legal Framework in New Zealand (414 KB)


The article presents a comparative study on abortion legislation in Poland and New Zealand. It includes a historical overview of the social and political influences shaping the contemporary approach to abortion in these countries. The aim of the article is to discuss the changes to the Polish and New Zealand abortion legislation and the current procedures required to access abortion. This article highlights differences in approaches to this issue in both countries where abortion laws have evolved recently in opposite directions. In New Zealand, after removing abortion from the Crimes Act 1961, abortion ceased to be the subject to criminal law, while in Poland where one of the strictest anti-abortion laws had been in force already, a ban was imposed on abortion which made it practically impossible for women to access legal abortions.

Keywords: Abortion Ban, Poland, Abortion Legislation Reform, Abortion Legislation Act, New Zealand.


Determining the initial moment of life creates some dilemmas not only for philosophers, theologians, representatives of the clergy, doctors or lawyers, but also for politicians who discuss and initiate changes to legal Acts concerning the protection of the right to life. This is of fundamental importance in the aspect of allowing termination of pregnancy. In contemporary legal systems there are two models of regulating the phenomenon of 12 weeks).1

In Poland and New Zealand, termination of pregnancy was the subject to some significant limitations, which made both countries examples of the practical application of the first of the above-mentioned models. Abortions were the subject to a criminal sanction if they were performed outside the indicated grounds for termination of pregnancy. There were various reasons for criminalising abortion in these countries. Nonetheless, Poland as the only country in the former Communist Bloc and New Zealand were among the last developed countries – apart from mini-European states and Ireland – that are a stronghold of the restrictive abortion laws.

According to the position of UN experts, having an ability to make their own decisions by women about pregnancy is at the very core of fundamental rights, including the right to equality, privacy as well as physical and mental integrity. In this perspective, the criminalisation of abortion could be considered a violation of a woman’s right to life, because it compels women to resort to unsafe abortion.2 Based on the World Health Organization data, criminalising the abortion and doctors’ fear of entering into conflict with the law, does not limit the number of abortions. On the contrary, it causes more illegal abortions.3 As a result, the termination of pregnancy becomes the third most common cause of death in pregnant women in the world.4 In this context, de-criminalisation in the form of removing criminal sanctions against abortion and establishing a broad and strictly defined legal framework for legal abortions becomes – with access to sex education in schools and partially refunded or free contraception – one of the most effective tool to reduce the number of illegal (and often dangerous) abortions.5


1 Dr Justyna Eska-Mikołajewska is an assistant professor at the Department of Political Studies at the University of Economics, Krakow (Poland). She was hosted as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies on Massey University’s Wellington campus. During her stay in New Zealand, she worked on the research for a co-authored book on the national security of New Zealand in the chang-ing security environment of the Asia-Pacific region. She has been cooperating with academics from the Centre in various projects, including the portal Przemiany ustrojowe, which specialises in political and constitutional issues of contemporary states. Contact by email: eskaj@uek.krakow.pl.