In Poland, Abortion and Women’s Rights Are Back In the Spotlight

In Poland, Abortion and Women’s Rights Are Back In the Spotlight
Polish women and supporters attend an annual ‘Manifa’ march in Krakow, Poland on March 18, 2023 (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via AP).

In the latest sign of Poland’s rightward shift under the Law and Justice, or PiS, party, an activist has been sentenced for helping another woman have an abortion—specifically, for providing her with abortion pills. Although possessing or using abortion-inducing medicines is not a crime in Poland, anyone who helps a pregnant woman get an abortion, beyond the few exceptions permitted by law, risks facing up to three years in prison.

The case’s unprecedented nature has put Poland’s near-total ban on abortion back in the spotlight and sparked fears that it could make it even more difficult for women carrying unwanted pregnancies to seek support. With parliamentary elections due this fall, the case could also make abortion a major topic during the campaign, highlighting and widening the country’s split between liberals and social conservatives.

On March 14, a Polish court sentenced women’s rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska—a founder of a Warsaw-based NGO called Abortion Dream Team, which provides information on how to safely terminate pregnancies—to eight months of community service. Wydrzynska had been charged with helping a pregnant woman who claimed to be the victim of domestic violence gain access to abortion pills. The prosecutor argued that she had acted with “direct intent” and caused "significant degree of social harm, taking into account the violated prenatal life.” Wydrzynska has said she will appeal the verdict.

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