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Polish Doctors to Deny Legal Abortions, Contraception, IVF for Religious Reasons


Religious fundamentalists along with Polish bishops have made a successful attempt to undermine the foundations of secular healthcare. Consequences may be deadly. In May the so-called “Declaration of Faith of Medical Doctors and Students on Human Sexuality and Fertility” was launched in Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa with the blessing of bishops and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church”. The initiative is led by Wanda Półtawska, ultra-conservative anti-choice doctor and long-time friend of the late Pope John Paul II. Its signatories declare, among others, that they believe the human body “is holy and inviolable”; that contraception, abortion, IVF and sex reassignment are unacceptable and only man and woman “joined in holy matrimony have the right to use these [reproductive] organs” for sexual contacts. The declaration goes on to say that “the foundation of dignity and freedom of a Catholic doctor is only his/her conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Church” and that “God’s law stands above human laws” and consequently he/she can deny treatment or procedures which are unacceptable to him/her.

So far some 3000 doctors and students have signed the document, most of them studying and practising in public, state-funded hospitals and clinics. This poses a great threat to women’s lives and health and may lead to violations of existing Polish regulations, for example refusals to perform abortions where it is legally possible, limitations in prenatal screening and denials to prescribe emergency contraception, to name but a few. We did not need to wait for tragic consequences of this declaration. This week a pregnant woman whose foetus was diagnosed with an incurable illness and severe malformation was denied abortion by doctor Bogdan Chazan, director of a public Holy Family Hospital (sic!), he also delayed formal proceedings until it was too late to terminate the pregnancy legally in Poland. This caused public uproar with social media campaigns and petitions. On Friday, June 13 a rally will be organized in front of the Polish parliament to demand that the government takes immediate and decisive action in order to ensure the respect for the rule of law and women’s human rights.

Federation for Women and Family Planning sent a letter to the Minister of Health Bartosz Arłukowicz demanding the dismissal of doctor Chazan, we also issued a critical statement about the Declaration of Faith and offered legal support to all women who have been denied access to reproductive health services on grounds of conscientious objection.

The petition in English and Polish is available here.

On Friday June 13th at 3 pm a protest will be held in front of the Polish Sejm in Warsaw.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

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