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 foetus’ 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 have 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.