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

The circumstances excluding the unlawfulness of termination of pregnancy were then transferred from the Criminal Code to a specially added section 4a (1) of the Act on family planning, protection of the human fetus and conditions for permitting termination of pregnancy.35 The amendment to the Act allowing for termination of pregnancy for social reasons which entered into force on January 4, 1997 already in May 1997 was found by the Constitutional Tribunal as inconsistent with the then constitutional regulations.36 The Tribunal ruled that it makes the protection of life in the prenatal phase dependent on the decision of the ordinary legislator. Moreover, the Tribunal found that this contradiction to the constitution “legalises the termination of pregnancy without sufficient justification the need to protect another value, right or constitutional freedom and uses undefined criteria for this legalisation, thus violating constitutional guarantees for human life.”37

Due to the existing balance of power in parliament in 1990s, no one really believed that the abortion compromise would be broken concerning the conflict between the interests of the Church and the state. For some, it was almost the myth of “abortion compromise” as they believed the majority of society would not accept a legal situation that is harmful to women. This is probably why no social issue has provoked open conflict between the main political groups like abortion in Poland.38

On July 5, 2016, the Committee “Stop Abortion” introduced to the Sejm, a bill prepared by the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture. It proposed to tighten the abortion law, providing for imprisonment for unlawful abortion in the case of fetal abnormality, that has constituted, so far, more than 98 percent of the total number of legal abortions each year.39 Just a month later, the Committee of the Legislative Initiative “Let’s Save Women” submitted an opposition bill, proposing unlimited access to abortion until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. In response, on September 14, 2016 representatives of the Polish Federation of Life Defence Movements submitted a draft under the Act of 11 July 2014 on petitions, demanding the tightening of the abortion law, but without changing the solution in force at that time, which excluded a woman undergoing an abortion from a criminal sanction.

On September 23, 2016 the Sejm voted the bill liberalising the abortion law (“Let’s Save Women”), and sent the radicalisation bill (“Stop abortion”) for further work in committees. Officially, on October 3, 2016, Poland saw the largest strike since the 1980s40, which was the culmination of a several-week-long protest action, lasted practically from the end of  September. The protest actions, referred to as the Black Protest and National Women’s Strikes adopted the formula of large demonstrations, protests and events in many Polish cities aimed at opposing changes of rights, and – importantly – increasing awareness related to reproductive rights.41