Poland sentences activist for assisting woman to get abortion
A Polish court has sentenced pro-abortion activist Justyna Wydrzynska to eight months of community service for illegally helping another woman get an abortion, but the European Commission and Parliament have remained tight-lipped.
While Polish abortion laws are among the strictest in Europe, Wydrzynska is probably the first person tried for aiding a pregnant woman. The activist is a co-founder of the Polish activist group Abortion Dream Team, which campaigns against stigmatising abortion in Poland and facilitates access to the procedure.
Wydrzyńska provided the pills to a woman named Ania, who was married to “an abusive man” who had threatened to report her for kidnapping if she travelled to Germany with her three-year-old son to get an abortion.
“I did not do that on my own initiative, as I do not distribute abortion pills. I knew Ania was desperate, and I had a few pills for my private use,” she said in court, according to the Abortion Dream Team’s website.
Ania’s partner reported her to the police, who then confiscated the pills. She subsequently had a miscarriage, according to reports.
Like Ania, the sentenced activist said she had also experienced domestic violence and sought an abortion “to protect herself and her three children.”
“I did not want to live in a world where any woman lacks access to reliable information and simple support,” she said, noting that her abortion became her motivation to break the taboo.
In her view, her human rights are being thwarted. She cited several international and foreign non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, that either expressed their support for Wydrzyńska or simply said that she should not have been charged for what she had done.
Wydrzyńska’s lawyer called for an acquittal, while the ultra-orthodox Catholic legal group Ordo Iuris, which also took part in the trial, said she should receive a suspended jail term.
During the court session, protesters gathered outside the court in Warsaw holding Jak Justyna (Like Justyna) banners.
The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS, ECR) has pledged to tighten the already restrictive abortion law since coming to power in 2015.
In October 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal, which the Commission and the EU Court of Justice decided is largely controlled by the government, ruled that it was unconstitutional for women to terminate pregnancies in cases of foetal abnormalities. The ruling sparked large protests in Polish cities.
Since then, abortion in Poland has been allowed only in cases of rape or incest or when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s health. Malta is the only other member state with stricter abortion laws.
EU Parliament, Commission remain silent
The European Commission and European Parliament President stated they would not comment on the Polish court’s landmark decision, EURACTIV.com reported on Wednesday.
“We do not comment on individual cases,” the Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand told journalists on Wednesday. “Abortion and rights legislation is a member state competence,” he added.
An official source from Metsola’s office told EURACTIV: “We will not comment on this.”
Metsola, who is Maltese, has faced pressure to clarify her positions on abortion, being a member of the Maltese Nationalist Party, which takes a strong anti-abortion stance in a member state which criminalises the procedure in all cases, even if the mother’s life is in danger.
“President Metsola stated in the very beginning that she would present the majority of the European Parliament and that she will stand for that. The majority of the European Parliament is that women should have the right to safe and legal abortion, so I expect her to just conduct that point of view,” commented Renew Europe MEP Samira Rafaela.