Statement from the Foundation for Women and Family Planning FEDERA following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights announced today that the so-called judgment of the Constitutional Court of 2020, which banned abortions based on embryopathological grounds, violates human rights.
The judgment comes as a huge victory for women’s rights in Poland and yet another argument for the need for immediate liberalisation of the country’s anti-abortion law. We are proud to say that as FEDERA we have contributed to this success.
In 2021, lawyers associated with FEDERA – Ms. Kamila Ferenc and Ms Agata Bzdyń – brought the case M.L. v. Poland to the Strasbourg Court. The case concerned a Polish woman who was denied access to abortion despite documented foetal impairments. After a long diagnostic process and the gathering of full documentation, there was no doubt – the foetus had an incurable genetic malfunction.
The abortion procedure was set to be performed at a hospital on 28 January 2021. In the middle of the night, however, M.L. received a message from the hospital. She was informed that the pregnancy would not be terminated because the infamous Constitutional Court ruling had come into force the day before (27 January). In her deteriorating mental state, M.L. had to organise a trip abroad within a few days, leaving her family and loved ones in Poland. To terminate the pregnancy, which only a few days earlier would have been performed for free in a nearby hospital, she had to travel to the Netherlands. She spent more than 5 500 PLN (approximately 1220€) for this.
The Polish state ignored her pain and pushed her outside the healthcare system. As a result, she had to be cared for by a psychiatrist and is also in the process of psychotherapy.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg left no illusions in its decision: the interference with respect for M.L.’s private life was unlawful within the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention.
As pointed out by attorney Kamila Ferenc: “The judgment is of key importance for the fate of Polish women. It is another argument for the Polish law, because of which women suffer, to change. At the same time, restoring the status quo from before the pseudo-judgment is insufficient. Polish law needs to be fully liberalised to at least match the standards of European law. We hope that the new Polish government will deliver this change”.
The Court awarded Ms. M.L. €15,000 in damages and €1,000 in compensation. As pointed out by Ms. Agata Bzdyń, solicitor at law, during the press conference at FEDERA: “The Court found that there had been a violation of Ms. M.L.’s right to privacy. The applicant was considered a direct victim of the pseudo-judgment of the Constitutional Court. It had a direct, negative impact on Ms. M.L.’s life, and her physical and mental health. The Court recognised the illegality of such interference. It also awarded Mrs M.L. a high amount of compensation”.
As FEDERA Foundation President Krystyna Kacpura pointed out: “We will never forget the night when the pseudo-verdict of the Constitutional Court came down. There were calls from frightened women just after prenatal examinations and confused doctors. It is high time, for Polish women to have the right to decide about their own lives. We will monitor the execution of the sentence by the new authorities”.
We fought for this decision for every woman who lives in Poland. Now there is no way out, the pseudo-verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal must be lifted! Today’s events mark only the beginning of a much bigger legal process. As FEDERA we will do everything to bring about the full liberalisation of the abortion law in Poland as soon as possible.
We are delighted with today’s victory, but we will not rest until every woman in Poland is guaranteed the right to decide about her life. FEDERA will always be on the side of those who need support. We promise to fight everywhere – even in Strasbourg. We won today, we will also win tomorrow.