‘Not one more woman’ can be a victim of Polish abortion laws – POLITICO

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Robert Biedroń is a Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the FEMM Committee on women’s rights and gender equality.

During the Cold War, women in Western Europe traveled behind the Iron Curtain to access free and legal abortion services in Poland. However, the tables have since turned.

Over the past 30 years, Polish women have been subjected to increasingly restrictive abortion laws, culminating in the decision of the Constitutional Court, which introduced a near total ban on abortion in 2020, leaving them fewer reproductive health rights than in fundamentalist states like Iran.

Since the implementation of this barbaric law, at least six women have died because they were denied life-saving abortions – and these are only the known victims. They have grieving names and families. Many other cases remain unreported.

But Polish women and girls should not be left on their own. Brussels must take immediate action against the country’s authorities and put in place measures to protect women in Poland, so that they can finally enjoy the same rights as those in Belgium, France or Germany.

The worrying phenomenon of the backsliding of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights is not exclusive to Poland. It is the result of an organized and well-funded global movement, orchestrated by organizations that for many decades pushed an anti-feminist agenda, gradually gaining significant influence over right-wing politicians and sponsoring policies undermining women’s rights. womens rights. They have been active in several European countries, including Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and Spain.

In Poland, it was Ordo Iuris – an organization with close ties to the Catholic Church and the country’s ruling politicians – that became the driving force behind attacks against women and LGBTQ+ people. Their main « achievements » include the banning of abortion and sex education, as well as the creation of « LGBT-free zones ». They are also behind the country’s sinister Pregnancy Registry – a database giving prosecutors all the information and tools to track down women accused of abortion, and could well lead to the criminalization of miscarriages.

Unfortunately, the European Commission and the European Council have so far refrained from taking action, saying their hands are tied since abortion is outside their competence – but the European Parliament dares to differ.

Since the 2020 ruling, parliament has passed two resolutions that not only condemn violations of women’s rights in Poland, but also urge its government to ensure access to safe, legal and free abortion services. It also adopted the landmark Matić report, affirming that the right to abortion is a fundamental human right.

Moreover, as the Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), we carried out a mission to Warsaw and organized a hearing with the representatives of the families of the women who died because of this draconian law.

Both confirmed the immediate threat to the health and lives of women in Poland.

Contrary to assurances from Polish authorities, access to legal abortion in the country is currently negligible — in 2021, only 107 abortions were performed among a population of 40 million. And the restrictive legislation also has a chilling effect on doctors, who refuse to perform abortions for fear of criminal consequences. Polish women are thus forced into clandestine abortions or seek help abroad.

For 30 years, Polish women have been subjected to increasingly restrictive abortion laws | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

Moreover, virtually no abortions are performed in the event of a pregnancy resulting from rape – which also strongly affects Ukrainian women, many of whom were raped by Russian troops and fled to Poland during the war.

Collecting all this information has now enabled us to come up with a set of recommendations that the European Union should adopt as a matter of urgency.

First, we must remember that women’s rights are human rights and member countries have a duty to uphold them. Polish women now have fewer rights than when their country joined the EU in 2004, which is why the Council must address Poland’s violations of women’s rights under Article 7 of the Treaty on EU.

Meanwhile, by including the right to abortion in the next EU health strategy, the Commission should ensure that all women in Europe enjoy full sexual and reproductive health rights.

Since many are forced to seek treatment abroad, we also need to find systemic solutions to facilitate this process. Thus, it is necessary to co-finance NGOs that support women against oppressive governments, and we must improve cooperation between member countries, so that European women can access free and safe abortion services within the systems of national health.

The recent case of an American woman who was denied a life-saving abortion while on vacation in Malta is just one example of this need. And it’s worth mentioning that this high-profile case prompted the Maltese government to relax its toughest anti-abortion law in the EU, allowing the procedure when a woman’s life or health is at risk. in danger.

On the grave of Izabela Sajbor, the first known victim of Poland’s barbaric abortion ban, there is an epitaph that reads: “Not one more”.

This motto, the slogan of the great anti-government demonstrations dedicated to his memory, should be engraved in all our hearts. And at a time when fundamentalists are usurping the law to make political decisions, the EU must fight for women with even more determination.

All European women have equal fundamental rights, and the bloc must be there to protect them, especially when their own governments are the ones putting their lives at risk.

This is why, with the socialist fraction of the parliament, we have worked on a European Charter of Women’s Rights. Something that will guarantee standardized access to sexual and reproductive health care, including legal and safe abortion, in addition to essential socio-economic and political rights.

And once this charter comes into force, « not one more women in Europe will be deprived of their fundamental rights and the future will finally be one of real equality between men and women.

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