Poland’s Reproductive Rights Crisis:
Activist Faces Prison for Supporting Safe Abortion
AUTHOR: Aneta Pavčová
In a distressing turn of events, Justyna Wydrzyńska, a prominent women’s rights defender in Poland, is facing a potential three-year prison sentence for her unwavering commitment to supporting individuals in need of safe and legal abortions. The charges against her appear to be a direct consequence of her activism, as she works tirelessly to ensure people’s rights to access reproductive healthcare in a country grappling with some of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.
Who is Justyna Wydrzyńska?
Justyna Wydrzyńska, an activist and doula, has been a key figure in the Abortion Dream Team, an activist collective in Poland campaigning against abortion stigma and providing non-judgmental advice on safe abortion practices. She has played a vital role in the Abortion Without Borders network, which offers information, counseling, funding, and support to those seeking abortion services, especially after the controversial ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal in October 2020 further restricted abortion rights.
Repressive Legal Environment
Poland’s abortion legislation, among the most restrictive in Europe, imposes severe limitations on reproductive rights. The 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling deemed abortion on the grounds of severe fetal impairment unconstitutional, leaving only two limited legal grounds for abortion – endangerment to the pregnant woman’s life or health and cases resulting from rape or incest. Even within these restricted parameters, numerous barriers hinder access to abortion, particularly affecting marginalized communities.
Legal Proceedings Against Justyna
Justyna’s legal troubles stem from her involvement in supporting a woman seeking a self-managed abortion during the early stages of the health pandemic in 2020. The charges against her include helping with an abortion and possession of medicines without authorization. Notably, the confiscated pills, containing mifepristone and misoprostol, are WHO-approved essential medicines. The prosecution argues that two of the medicines lack authorization in Poland, highlighting the broader challenges activists face in navigating an increasingly hostile legal environment.
Abortion Without Borders’ Crucial Role
Abortion Without Borders, spearheaded by activists like Justyna, has become a lifeline for thousands of individuals in Poland, receiving over 32,000 inquiries between January 2021 and 2022. The organization has supported over 1,500 individuals in traveling abroad for safe abortions, showcasing the critical role these activists play in ensuring access to reproductive healthcare amid legal and societal challenges.
International Human Rights Concerns:
The international community must recognize the human rights implications of Justyna Wydrzyńska’s case. The right to access safe abortion is a fundamental human right, and no one should face imprisonment for providing or seeking reproductive healthcare. The Polish authorities must drop all charges against Justyna, and the legal framework around abortion, particularly Article 152 in the Penal Code, must be reformed to align with international human rights standards.
Justyna Wydrzyńska’s case serves as a stark reminder of the uphill battle faced by activists in Poland fighting for reproductive rights. As the international community watches, it is crucial to rally support for Justyna and others facing similar challenges. The right to access safe abortion is not just a legal matter but a fundamental human right that demands protection and advocacy. The Polish authorities must reconsider their stance, recognizing the importance of reproductive autonomy and ensuring a just and compassionate approach to women’s healthcare.