On October 22, Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling finding abortion on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetusâ€™ life” unconstitutional.
Poland has already had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with the procedure being banned with three exceptions: with the pregnancy being a result of a crime, on the grounds of foetal defects and when the pregnancy posed a danger to woman’s life or health. In a country of almost 38 million inhabitants, the National Health Fund registered around a 1000 procedures per year, 98% out of which on the grounds of foetal malformations.
The ruling imposes a virtual ban on abortion in Poland. The country is believed to haveÂ already had one of the biggest abortion undergrounds in Europe, with an estimated 120 000 – 150 000 procedures performed yearly, usually being either self-administered medical abortions or illegal surgical terminations.
Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, took a stand on the decision, publicly declaring the ruling “a violation of human rights”.
Independent monitors and non-governmental organisation’s representatives were not allowed into the building despite numerous requests to join the proceedings.
The ruling comes as highly controversial also due to the situation of Polish judiciary – a majority of currently sitting Judges of the Tribunal were appointed by Poland’s ruling party after a judiciary scandal emerged in 2015. Some local human and women’s rights groups do not recognise the decision as legal, but it will be binding nonetheless.