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

Author: Eska-Mikołajewska, J
Published in National Security Journal, 05 April 2021

What is particularly important is that from that moment on, abortion was stopped for socio-economic reasons. The access to abortion, compared to the freedom women enjoyed under the Communist rule, was thus significantly restricted. A significant proportion of women accepted this with dissatisfaction, which resulted in protests and the collection of 1.7 million signatures on the motion for a referendum on the matter.31It aimed to show the opinion of the citizen and to oblige the legislators to respect the decision thus made. However, the parliamentary draft regarding this referendum was lost in the Sejm of the 1st term, being the embodiment of the extreme fragmentation of the political scene at that time, albeit dominated by right-wing groups with a clearly anti-abortion approach.32

Rejecting of the existing status quo

Abortion Law 1993, which was a contract between politicians and church officials, has survived in Poland for several decades. Life protection of an unborn child, in the light of the statutory regulation adopted in 1993, was treated as the implementation of a subjective right, thus implicitly confirmed the legal subjectivity of the unborn child. The new Act of 1993 provided the ground for a total ban on termination of pregnancy. According to the new Act, the person performing the procedure could be imprisoned (up to five years) and the woman terminating the pregnancy could face a jail sentence up to three years.

The law regulating termination of pregnancy in Poland from 1993 was classified in the second category in terms of radicalness in the world (together being a group of 56 countries, i.e. 14% population).33 Even though it was one of the most restrictive in Europe, it is assumed that in the Poland’s transition period to democracy a relatively permanent “abortion compromise” was reached. Nevertheless, in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century, several bills were submitted to the Sejm by both the right-wing parties who opposed any changes to the existing legislation as well as the centrist and the left-wing parties who supported changes at least in part.

The first change was to restore the possibility of performing an abortion if the woman was in a difficult life or personal situation from the 1956 Act. On August 30, 1996, the amendment to the law on family planning was passed, which allowed termination of pregnancy. In such cases, a pregnant woman was required to submit a written statement and consult with another primary care physician or other authorized person than the one who was to perform the abortion. It could be performed if the woman maintained her intention 3 days after the consultation. Originally, the March 1, 1993 version of the Act, contained the confirmation of the inherent right to life of every human from the moment of conception, with a guarantee of legal protection of the child’s life and health. After the amendment, “the right to life began to be protected, also in the prenatal phase within the limits specified in the Act”.34