Countries Abortion Profile

Poland

1. Law related to Abortion

The Act of 7 January 1993 on Family Planning, Protection of the Human Embryo and Conditions for Termination of Pregnancy.

Brief history of the law:

Abortion had been legal in Poland since 1956 and abortion services were widely available. The public debate on abortion started in 1989, and in 1993 significant changes concerning women’s reproductive rights were introduced in Poland. The Act on Family Planning, Human Embryo Protection and Conditions of Permissibility of Abortion. The anti- abortion law was liberalized shortly in 1996 (enforced in 1997) to allow abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy on social grounds. The law was restricted again in 1997 (enforced in 1998) in response to the Constitutional Tribunal’s decision holding that abortion on social grounds is unconstitutional.

Short summary of conditions within the law

  • To protect woman’s life        - yes
  • To preserve physical health - yes
  • To preserve mental health    - no
  • Rape or incest                       - yes
  • Fetal impairment                   - yes
  • Socio-economic factors       - no
  • Available on request             - no

Analysis of it being restrictive if at all

The Act of 1993 is extremely restrictive because it does not allow termination of pregnancy on social grounds and the reasons for termination of pregnancy included in the Act are set out in an extremely restrictive way, both in comparison with the regulatory environment before the act came into force, as well as in comparison with the regulatory environment in force in other countries (in European countries it is comparable only to Ireland and Malta).

2. Policy

(Government policy enabling for the law, enabling beyond the law in practice etc such as population control policy, pro-natalist policy, anti sex selection policy, two child family norm)

The government has a statutory obligation to prepare a report each year on the realisation of the act on family planning, however, it does not completely fulfil this obligation. In its reports, the government limits itself exclusively to providing the official number of terminations of pregnancy carried out in accordance with the law in public hospitals. It baulks at providing an estimate concerning the number of abortions carried out in the so-called abortion underground, in which the number of abortions significantly exceeds the official statistics. The unwillingness of the government to undertake such research on the scale of the abortion underground is most likely due to the fact that if any such research confirmed the actual scale of the underground, it would signify a total failure of the Act on Family Planning in liquidating or at least reducing the number of abortions.

3. Second Trimester Abortion

4. Practice

  • Abortion skills are not taught at medical academies
  • Conscientious objection enables doctors to deny women abortion
  • Lack of proper training of physicians and mid-level medical personnel, combined with a lack of reliable information on medical abortion may jeopardize the health of women using this method improperly.

5. Reproductive Health Perspective

Signatory to ICPD, CEDAW: Yes

6. Abortion Statistics

Induced abortion rate among women aged 15-44 years
Total abortion rate per woman                   - 0,02(2005)
 Abortion ratio per 100 live births              - 0,65
Age specific abortion rate (per 1,000 women) age 15-19

Total number of abortions (indicate source; period) 340 (Reproductive Rights in Poland, Report of Federation for Women and Family Planning, 2008)

7. Public sector

Abortion services available:

1st Trimester   - in case of pregnancy being a result of a criminal act
2nd Trimester  - in case of decision about termination taken because of indications resulting from prenatal examinations
Cost                  - free of charge

8. Private Sector

Abortion services available:

1st Trimester    - in case of pregnancy being a result of a criminal act
2nd Trimester   - in case of decision about termination taken because of indications resulting from prenatal examinations
Cost                   - it varies depending on provider.

9. Methods used

2nd Trimester with Ethacridine lactate , Misoprostol, D&E, Hysterotomy.

In Poland D&C remains a prevailing method for termination of pregnancy.

10. Provider level allowed for surgical and medical abortion

Only Ob/Gyns are allowed to perform abortion (surgical).

11. Abortion related morbidity mortality statistics

Data unavailable.

12. Manufacture and/or availability through import of abortion equipment (MVA syringes, EVA equipment)

MVA syringes nor EVA equipment are not imported as the prevailing abortion method is D&C.

13. Manufacture / import of Mifepristone, Misoprostol

They are not registered in Polish Drugs’ Registry.

14. Facility and provider certification norms in brief

15. Information available in national service delivery standards

16. Informal / illegal providers - if present who are they

While Poland reported fewer than 200 “official” abortions in 2005, it is estimated that between 60,000 and 200,000 Polish women obtain abortions annually, either by paying for an illegal abortion in-country or traveling to a nearby country where abortion is legal.

17. Population urban/ rural: Demography of the country, with an analysis of availability of abortion services ratio to population

Data unavailable.

18. Role of government

  • The present government is pro-life and not showing any interest in providing infrastructure necessary to improve present situation. The government tends to ignore the pathologies resulting from a criminogenic law (abortion underground, abortion tourism, infanticide, abandonment of children).
  • The government is obliged (by the Act on Family Planning) to prepare annual report on the realization of the act on family planning, however it does not fulfil this obligation. The reports that had been prepared are limited to provide the official number of terminations of pregnancy and ignore the number of abortions carried out in the so-called abortion underground.

19. Role of religion / religious leaders

Catholic leaders, whose attitude is extremely restrictive, influence both politicians and health professionals.

20. Local Ob Gyn societes

Doctors are often reluctant to grant therapeutic abortions, even when their patients clearly qualify for one, because the law is vaguely worded and abortion is highly stigmatized.

21. Current status and potential of research

  • Federation for Women and Family Planning prepares reports on abortion and observance of family planning law.
  • The government is reluctant to undertake research on factual abortion-related situation.

22. Awareness amongst community members

Awareness on MVA/EVA, medical abortion (among women) -
Almost none.
Awareness on MVA/EVA, medical abortion (among medical providers) -
They are aware of its existence but they are not trained to perform it.

23. Role of member organization/ individual

The Federation for Women and Family Planning is the most important pro-choice organization and Poland and has been monitoring the implementation of the anti-abortion law since its very inception. It conducts counseling, legal interventions, educational publishing and awareness raising campaigns. It conducts permanent monitoring of the observance of human rights in Poland and informs public opinion and the relevant institutions in the country and abroad of the results.