Death of a woman spurs demonstrations across Poland against anti-abortion legislation | Society

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Organizations for the defense of Women’s Rights and groups for the right to abortion have called mobilizations throughout Poland to protest against one of the most restrictive regulations in Europe on the matter. The protests, on the first anniversary of the law, come just a few days after the death in Czestochova (in the south of the country) of a woman pregnant with twins whose lifeless fetus was not removed for a week of them for medical decisions that the family attributes to anti-abortion legislation. This law has pushed thousands of women to travel to other countries to terminate their pregnancy and has prompted more than a thousand lawsuits before the European Court of Human Rights.

Marta Lempart, founder of the Women’s Strike movement, explains by videoconference that, as the health situation due to the pandemic does not advise large mass demonstrations, other actions such as pickets, roadblocks or candle lighting are being promoted, both in the windows of the houses as in front of institutions such as the Constitutional Court or the headquarters of the party in power, the ultraconservative Law and Justice (PiS). “The ban on abortion in Poland kills,” Lempart protests, explaining that the immediate objective of the mobilizations, beyond reversing the legislation, is “for justice to be done” in the case of Agnieszka T, the woman who died in Czestochova, “so that it doesn’t happen again to more families.”

Agnieszka T, 37 years old and mother of three other children, was in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy, when, on December 23, she lost one of the fetuses. Then, the doctors at the Czestochova hospital decided to “adopt an attitude of waiting and vigilance, since there were possibilities to save the second child,” according to a statement from the medical center. On December 31, however, the death of the second fetus was certified due to a “spontaneous abortion”. The woman was then transferred to another hospital, where she has remained in hospital ever since, and finally lost her life on Tuesday. “We don’t know exactly what happened. The doctors did not inform the family at any time of the decisions they were making, they did not even let them see her until she was already very ill, “explains Lempart. “They didn’t treat her well,” she adds.

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Agnieszka T., in an image provided by the Polish Women's Strike movement.
Agnieszka T., in an image provided by the Polish Women’s Strike movement.

While the Polish justice investigates the event, Agnieszka’s family affirmed in a message broadcast on social networks that the doctors did not heed their pleas to save the woman, “even at the cost of the pregnancy”: “Unfortunately, the extraction was not allowed of the dead fetus because the law in Poland strictly forbids it. […] They waited until the vital functions of the other twin stopped spontaneously and Agnieszka carried the dead child in her womb for the next seven days.

The case is reminiscent of another similar one that occurred in Poland in September, when Iza, 30, lost her life in a hospital due to complications in a childbirth during which, according to the family, the doctors prioritized saving the life of the fetus and made decisions that They cost her mother her life. On that occasion, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, regretted that only “the death of the mother” was discussed and “it was not mentioned that a child also died.” “Life is an absolutely supreme value,” he added.

A year ago, the ruling of the Constitutional Court of October 2020 entered into force, which criminalizes the interruption of pregnancy even when a serious and irreversible deterioration of the fetus has been diagnosed, although in theory it is possible if the life of the mother is at risk. This eliminates the possibility of terminating a pregnancy in the event of fetal malformation, which in practice accounted for 97% of the abortions performed. Consequently, according to data from the Polish state Health Fund, the number of legal abortions performed in 2021 fell by 65% ​​compared to the previous year, when according to independent organizations there were some 1,000 interruptions of pregnancy throughout the country.

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“More than 80% of the Polish population agrees that abortion is a legal right,” says Lempart, whose organization is promoting a support telephone line for families to ensure that, with legal support and media coverage, health professionals Poles are forced to improve the treatment of women in these situations and that cases like Agnieszka’s are not repeated. “When the government passes these types of laws, it needs people to apply them. Among the judges, there have been heroes who have refused to apply unfair laws – if this were not the case, I would have spent three years in prison – but among the doctors, although there is a small group of professionals and centers that are willing to act correctly and help women, no one has come out to speak publicly against these practices”, protests Lempart.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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