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

Only three days later, the Sejm approved the parliamentary committee for justice and human rights’ recommendation and finally rejected the draft “Stop Abortion” initiative at the meeting on October 6, 2016. In the end, the rejection of the civil bill was explained by the fact that further criminalisation of abortion would lead to trials that would have opposite effects than the bill intended.42

Subsequent attempts to amend the statutory provisions were made again in 2017–2018. In October 2017, the Committee of the Legislative Initiative “Let’s Save Women 2017” once again submitted to the Sejm a civil bill asking for access to termination of pregnancy up to 12 weeks. The case was widely echoed, because both the committee of activists in favor of the restrictive abortion law, and the Catholic media were accused of lying about the scale of support for the actions of the “Let’s Save Women 2017” committee (assessed by them at over 400,000 signatures).43 On October 27, that is two weeks before the citizens’ bill was to be submitted to the Sejm, which removes one of the three conditions for performing an abortion from the 1993 Act, a group of MPs belonging mainly to the ruling party club, Law and Justice, and non-attached MPs, filed a motion with the Constitutional Tribunal. They have applied for a ruling that the provisions of the above-mentioned Act authorising abortion in the event of a high probability of severe and irreversible fetal impairment or an incurable disease threatening its life is inconsistent with the Polish Constitution.44

Following this initiative, on November 30, the “Stop Abortion” Legislative Initiative committee submitted to the Sejm a civil bill abolishing the right to abortion in the event of a high probability of severe and irreversible fetal impairment or an incurable life-threatening disease. At the beginning of the new year, on January 10, 2018, the first reading of both draft laws of the legislative initiatives “Let’s Save Women 2017” and “Stop Abortion” took place. After the first reading, the Sejm draft initiative “Let’s Save Women 2017” was rejected, while the draft “Stop Abortion” initiative was referred to a subcommittee specially appointed for this purpose.45

The application submitted on October 27, 2017 to the Constitutional Tribunal was aimed at limiting abortion on constitutional grounds. Undoubtedly, the Law and Justice party, which has been ruling in Poland since 2015, has tried to implement a total ban on abortion from the time they took power in Poland.46 Following the Tribunal’s ruling on the non-compliance of the embryopathological premise of termination of pregnancy with section 38 of the Constitution, the country’s largest demonstrations since 1989 exploded. Mass protests of Polish women and men reflected the radicalisation of attitudes and significant changes in society’s attitude towards abortion that have taken place in recent years.47 Poles in several hundred cities in Poland and in over a hundred cities abroad (including Christchurch, New Zealand), expressed their opposition to the abortion ban. These protests were also directed at the ruling Law and Justice party as they were distinctly anti-government, anti-Catholic and pro-secular (the Polish episcopate supported the decision to tighten the abortion law).48