European Court of Human Rights announced its judgment today in the case P. and S. v. Poland. Federation for Women and Family Planning and its lawyers have been involved in the case from the very beginning. It is a case of a teenage girl who was pregnant as a result of rape. Despite the fact that there was a relevant document issued by the prosecutor, she had been denied legal abortion in several hospitals. As a result she had to undergo the procedure in a hospital located 500 kilometers from her place of residence. Besides that, her right to confidentiality of medical information was breached, which resulted in severe harassment by pro-life and Catholic activists. The girl was also separated from her mother and placed in a juvenile shelter.

The Court determined violations of Article 8, (right to respect for private and family life) as regards the determination of access to lawful abortion in respect of both applicants (by six votes to one) and as regards the disclosure of the applicants’ personal data (unanimously);  Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) in respect of P., and a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of P.

The court held that Poland was to pay P. 30,000 euros (EUR) and S. EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 16,000 to both applicants in respect of costs and expenses.

Read the judgment in full here: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/fra-press/pages/search.aspx?i=003-4140612-4882633

 

www.medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-abortions-million-year-doctors-women.html

May 17, 2011 in Health

New analysis published by the UK journal Reproductive Health Matters shows that the criminalisation of abortion in Poland has led to the development of a vast illegal private sector with no controls on price, quality of care or accountability. Since abortion became illegal in the late 1980s the number of abortions carried out in hospitals has fallen by 99%. The private trade in abortions is, however, flourishing, with abortion providers advertising openly in newspapers.

Women have been the biggest losers during this push of abortion provision into the clandestine private sector. The least privileged have been hardest hit: in 2009 the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was greater than the average monthly income of a Polish citizen. Low-income groups are less able to protest against discrimination due to lack of political influence. Better-off women can pay for abortions generating millions in unregistered, tax-free income for doctors. Some women seek safe, legal abortions abroad in countries such as the UK and Germany.

“In the private sector, illegal abortion must be cautiously arranged and paid for out of pocket,” says Agata Chełstowska, the author of the research and a PhD student at the University of Warsaw. “When a woman enters that sphere, her sin turns into gold. Her private worries become somebody else’s private gain”. The Catholic Church, highly influential in predominantly Catholic Poland, leads the opposition to legal abortion.

Since illegality has monetised abortion, doctors have incentives to keep it clandestine, “Doctors do not want to perform abortions in public hospitals,” says Wanda Nowicka, Executive Director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning. “They are ready, however, to take that risk when a woman comes to their private practice. We are talking about a vast, untaxed source of income. That is why the medical profession is not interested in changing the abortionlaw.”

In several high profile cases, women and girls have been denied legal abortions following rape or because of serious health conditions and have been hounded by the media for seeking them. The 2004 case of a young pregnant woman who died after being denied medical treatment is currently under consideration at the European Court of Human Rights.

Other articles in this issue of Reproductive Health Matters focus on many aspects of health privatisation worldwide and includes studies from Bangladesh, Turkey, Malawi, India, Madagascar and South Africa.

More information: doi:10.1016/S0968-8080(11)37548-9

Why Poland’s Proposed Abortion Ban is a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme for the Medical Establishment and a Death Sentence for Women

Description: Author image

by Katarzyna Pabijanek

July 11, 2011 – 11:08am

Description: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/files/imagecache/Teaser-Image/teaser-images/poland_abortion_0330.jpg


July 7, 2011. (Romereports.com) A proposal that would ban all abortions in Poland has been sent by Parliament to committee for consideration. Under current law, abortion is legal if there are serious fetal anomalies or in cases of endangerment to the life or health of the mother. In reality, legal abortion even under these circumstances is inaccessible. There is, however, a huge black market in abortion in Poland and the medical establishment earns nearly $100 million annually off the books providing unsafe abortion.

On June 30th, the Polish Parliament debated a bill that would totally ban abortion in Poland, even if a woman’s life were in danger. The left-wing party put forward a proposal to reject the bill during the first reading but the other political parties demanded the bill be referred to committee for consideration, and their proposal won by a vote of 261 to 155.. The committee will present a report on the bill to Parliament by early September. The draft bill, named “On the protection of human life from the moment of conception” – was initially submitted to Parliament in April 2011. The draft was prepared by the Committee of Legislative Initiative led by Mariusz Dzierzawski, a fanatic opponent of abortion, known as an organizer of the macabre anti-abortion exhibitions held in the Polish cities.

Poland’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Europe and even more restrictive in practice than on paper. Although the law allows termination of pregnancy under three conditions – including for therapeutic reasons and when it results from a criminal act – legal abortion is actually not accessible even for women whose conditions fall under the exceptions. According to the annual report on implementation of the current abortion law (“Law on family planning, protection of the human fetus and conditions for legal abortion”) there are approximately 500 (out of ten million women of reproductive age) legal pregnancy terminations a year.

The legal principles are applied with great rigidity and there is widespread abuse of conscience clauses among doctors and entire institutions intended to deny women legal abortion.   According to Polish law, physicians can refuse to perform abortion or dispense contraceptives on the grounds of conscientious objection. The conscientious objection clause and the way it is exercised in Poland have become a significant barrier to accessing services to which women are entitled by law.  It also happens quite often in Poland that conscientious objection is ”practiced” by the entire hospital, not by individual doctors, which opposes the individuality-based concept of the conscience clause. The recent anti-choice initiative call on the pharmacists to refuse to sell the contraceptives in pharmacies, and was inspired by the Council of Europe’s recent unfortunate resolution “The right to conscientious objection clause in the legal care”.

One case that upset much of the general public concerned a visually-impaired Polish woman, who was denied an abortion on health grounds, even though medical diagnoses confirmed that continuing her pregnancy could further severely damage her vision, thereby constituting a risk to her health.

Meanwhile the criminalization of abortion in Poland has led to the development of a vast illegal private sector with no controls on price, quality of care or accountability. Clandestine abortions generate up to $95 million a year for Polish doctors as women turn to the illegal private sector to terminate pregnancies. Since abortion became illegal in the late 1980s the number of abortions carried out in hospitals has fallen by 99 percent. The private trade in abortions is, however, flourishing, with abortion providers advertising openly in newspapers. The biggest losers are the least privileged: in 2009 the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was greater than the average monthly income of a Polish citizen. Low-income groups are less able to protest against discrimination due to lack of political influence. Better-off women can pay for abortions generating millions in unregistered, tax-free income for doctors. Some women seek safe, legal abortions abroad in countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Germany.

The newest law proposal is being debated by the Parliament, and the report is to be presented in early September. The leftist Democratic Left Alliance Party presented another bill calling for liberalization of abortion. However, the progressive bill will not be discussed by the Parliament during its current term. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October and it is becoming obvious that abortion will be the main coin used to gain voters. Pro-choice groups are currently forming an initiative to push for a liberal bill introducing refundable legal abortion till the 12th week of pregnancy, funding for contraceptives and sexual education in schools.

Poland is currently presiding over the council of the European Union, and the failure to reject this very restrictive bill on the very first day of the Presidency of the EU Council is a worrying signal to the international community. Polish groups have initiated a campaign calling on supporters to send a letter to the Prime Minister of Poland.

The letter is available at ASTRA’s website [21] and copied below.  We encourage you to send your letter opposing this law to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, donald.tusk@sejm.pl [22].  We also ask that you send a cc: federa@astra.org.pl [23].

Sample letter:

Your Excellency, I write to express my concern that the draft text for the new bill on abortion: “The law on changing the Law on family planning, protection of the human fetus and conditions for legal abortion” – to be discussed by the Parliament’s Committee by the 1st of September – contains provisions on that will result in violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights and health. The international human rights standard is to liberalize abortion laws to make it safe and accessible to women and thereby lessen maternal mortality related to unsafe abortion. The language used in the draft of the new bill regarding the right to life does not correspond to that used in international and European human rights instruments – to which Poland is also party – as it unconditionally prohibits abortion, thereby leading not to lessening the number of women inducing abortion but only makes it dangerous for women who will undergo clandestine and unsafe abortion. Passing the bill will increase maternal mortality, abortion-related injuries and deaths are likely to be especially high among poor women, who can’t afford to travel abroad. As a result, many of them might try self-induced abortions. It is unacceptable that in the 21st Century, a European country includes in its legislation a provision which directly endangers women’s lives. I trust that you will do your best to ensure that Poland considers reviewing its legislation regarding abortion in a forward-looking legislation, taking the lead in promoting women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Sincerely yours,

Rules for receiving cross-border healthcare and reimbursement of these costs were clarified thanks to the EU Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare, which was formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011, and all Member States have to implement it by November 2013. It provides more clarity about possibilities to seek healthcare in another Member State . The Directive also clarifies who is responsible for quality and safety of care in cross-border settings. Finally, it strengthens cooperation in different areas, such as networks of centres of reference for specialised care. Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning seeks to take advantage of the Directive in order to advance women’s access to SRHR services. We expect that the implementation of the Directive will improve the situation of Polish women’s access to abortion. Due to the restrictive law access to abortion is limited, moreover even women who are legally entitled to abortion are often denied access to services in Poland . The Directive will change it, because women will be given the opportunity to seek the services abroad, and the Polish state will be obliged to reimburse the costs of services. It is important to note that, at the same time the Czech Ministry of Health has proposed the new law regulating accessibility of abortion for citizen of the EU. The current Czech law regulating access to abortion was adopted in 1986 a nd it does not conform with the European regulations. According to the current legislation, abortion on request is available to the 12th week, and abortion for medical reasons is allowed till the 24th week.

 

The text of the directive is available here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P7-TA-2011-0007&language=EN

 

STATEMENT ON THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS’ JUDGMENT IN THE CASE R.R. v. Poland

 

The Federation for Women and Family Planning expresses a great satisfaction with landmark judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg in the case R.R. v. Poland,which states that Poland has violated the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Federation is even more pleased as the R.R. case was conducted by our organization in cooperation with the Warsaw University Law Clinic, supported by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Att. Monika Gąsiorowska and Irmina Kotkiuk, who conducted the case at the Court, are members of the Federation’s Network of Lawyers.

 

The Court stated that the human rights resulting from the articles 3 and 8 of the Convention were violated by the Polish State in the case of pregnant woman who could not exercise her right to the prenatal diagnostic tests which might have confirmed or denied a previous diagnosis of a presence of  severe genetic abnormality of a foetus.

 

Following the judicature consolidated in the previous judgments the Court stated that the woman’s right to respect for private and family life (article 8 of the Convention) was violated because she had been denied reliable information about a condition of her foetus and had been prevented from deciding whether or not continue a pregnancy. Consequently, the Polish State did not provided the woman with a possibility to exercise the patient’s fundamental right to information. Furthermore, the Court stated that the Polish State does not provide an effective mechanism for exercising this right.

 

The Federation is also greatly satisfied with a fact that the Court acknowledged that the article 3 of the Convention considering prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment was violated in this case. It is for the first time in a history that the Court passed such a judgment in the case considering the reproductive rights. The Court stated that a medical treatment the woman had experienced exceeded the limits acceptable by the Convention.  The woman had suffered for many weeks what according to the Court exceeds a minimum threshold of pain acceptable on a ground of the article 3. It means that a way the doctors looked after the women was an inhuman and degrading treatment.

 

The Federation is pleased that the Court awarded the woman a record-breaking 45 000 EURO compensation. The Court acknowledged that the woman’s torment and suffering caused by a lack of knowledge about her situation together with a great humiliation she had suffered at the doctors’ hands as well as the other circumstances of the case justify the compensation’s amount.

 

We consider the Court’s judgment in the R.R. case as a great success in our fight for respecting the women’s reproductive rights in Poland.


London 17 May 2011 – New analysis published by the UK journal Reproductive Health Matters shows that the criminalisation of abortion in Poland has led to the development of a vast illegal private sector with no controls on price, quality of care or accountability. Since abortion became illegal in the late 1980s the number of abortions carried out in hospitals has fallen by 99%. The private trade in abortions is, however, flourishing, with abortion providers advertising openly in newspapers.

Women have been the biggest losers during this push of abortion provision into the clandestine private sector.  The least privileged have been hardest hit: in 2009 the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was greater than the average monthly income of a Polish citizen. Low-income groups are less able to protest against discrimination due to lack of political influence. Better-off women can pay for abortions generating millions in unregistered, tax-free income for doctors. Some women seek safe, legal abortions abroad in countries such as the UK and Germany.

“In the private sector, illegal abortion must be cautiously arranged and paid for out of pocket,” says Agata Chełstowska, the author of the research and a PhD student at the University of Warsaw. “When a woman enters that sphere, her sin turns into gold. Her private worries become somebody else’s private gain”. The Catholic Church, highly influential in predominantly Catholic Poland, leads the opposition to legal abortion.

Since illegality has monetised abortion, doctors have incentives to keep it clandestine: “Doctors do not want to perform abortions in public hospitals,” says Wanda Nowicka, Executive Director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning. “They are ready, however, to take that risk when a woman comes to their private practice. We are talking about a vast, untaxed source of income. That is why the medical profession is not interested in changing the abortion law.”

 

In several high profile cases, women and girls have been denied legal abortions following rape or because of serious health conditions and have been hounded by the media for seeking them. The 2004 case of a young pregnant woman who died after being denied medical treatment is currently under consideration at the European Court of Human Rights.

Other articles in this issue of Reproductive Health Matters focus on many aspects of health privatisation worldwide and include studies from Bangladesh, Turkey, Malawi, India, Madacascar and South Africa.

# # #

For more information, contact: Pathika Martin, +44 (0) 207 267 6567  pmartin@rhmjournal.org.uk

About Reproductive Health Matters

Reproductive Health Matters is an international, peer-reviewed journal published twice a year. It offers analysis of reproductive health matters from a women-centred perspective. It is written by and for women’s health advocates, researchers, service providers, policy makers and those in related fields with an interest in women’s health.  Its aim is to promote laws, policies, research and services that meet women’s reproductive health needs and support women’s right to decide whether, when and how to have children.

http://www.rhmjournal.org.uk/

Twitter: @RHMjournal

The Human Life International Poland and the Human Life’s Friends Club on 17th of February called for signing a petition concerning the right of the Polish pharmacists to refuse to sell the contraceptives in pharmacies. The HLI Poland has created a special website where a support for the right of pharmacists to refuse to sell the contraceptives, called by HLI Poland “miscarriage pills”, can be expressed. This wording illustrates best how scarce is the knowledge about contraception in Poland , even among health professionals. Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning hot line operators report the lack of information and knowledge regarding difference between contraceptives, emergency contraception drugs and abortifacients. According to current regulations, pharmacies are obliged to sell all the drugs registered in the national drug registry. The anti-choice initiative is based on the resolution “The right to conscientious objection clause in the legal care” adopted by the Council of Europe last year and claims that pharmacists, as health care professionals, also have a right to use a conscientious objection.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning at www.federa.org.pl