Poland’s Supreme Court tightens strict abortion laws
WARSAW – Poland’s highest court has declared abortions unconstitutional when performed because of fetal abnormalities, the ruling Catholic Conservative Party during his years of struggling to further tighten some of Europe’s toughest laws.
Poland will now only allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s health is at stake. Its laws make the predominantly Catholic country almost the most difficult place in the European Union for terminate a pregnancy, excluding small states such as Malta or jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland, where such procedures are illegal.
Cases in which there was a high probability of severe fetal failure or incurable disease accounted for 97% of abortions last year in Poland. In its ruling on Thursday, the country’s Constitutional Court said terminating a pregnancy for such reasons was a form of “eugenic practice.”
The law “legalized eugenic practices in the field of the right to life of an unborn child and made the protection of the right to life of an unborn child dependent on his state of health, which is prohibited direct discrimination. The court said in a statement. short judgment. It “violated the constitutional guarantees of human life”.
“It is not possible to talk about the protection and dignity of human beings if there is not a sufficient basis for the protection of life,” said judge rapporteur Justyn Piskorski when announcing the decision.
The decision satisfied a long-standing goal of the Polish Law and Justice Party, which is allied with the Catholic Church. Since coming to power in 2015, the party has attempted to remove the fetal exemption clause, one of the few indemnities from a 1993 law that overturned the more tolerant Communist-era policy towards abortion.
In 2016, the party tried to pass legislation banning abortion in almost all cases, including rape, but backed down after tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Warsaw and other cities.
Thursday’s decision came in a radically different climate. Poland is in the midst of a wave of Covid-19 infections, with a record 12,107 cases recorded on Thursday. Weddings, funerals and other gatherings have been banned, and national news has focused on scenes of ambulances lined up in unprepared hospitals. As the decision drew near, protests were mostly confined to a small group of a dozen protesters who had been camping outside the Constitutional Court in recent days.
“To throw out the subject of abortion and try a pseudo-tribunal in the midst of a raging pandemic is more than cynicism,” former Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter. “It’s political wickedness.”
The Polish Constitutional Court has been a source of friction between the ruling party and the liberal opposition. Since coming to power, Law and Justice has been able to purge the high court and replenish its bench with conservative judges, using mechanisms that the opposition says are substandard and extra-constitutional. The European Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, has criticized the ruling party for its actions, saying “there is a systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland”.
The ruling party said the court was now more responsive to Polish voters, who repeatedly elected law and justice majorities to parliament.
The government applauded the court’s decision. “We express our satisfaction that the Constitutional Court has taken the side of life,” said Błażej Spychalski, spokesperson for President Andrzej Duda.
About 150,000 Poles leave the country each year to terminate their pregnancies in neighboring states such as Slovakia, where abortion clinics are staffed by Polish-speaking nurses, according to women’s rights groups. Polish doctors are often reluctant to perform even legal abortions for fear of breaking the law or for religious reasons. Thursday’s decision would exacerbate these problems, said Małgorzata Kidawa Błońska, deputy marshal of the parliament.
“Ultimately, it will make women’s lives hell,” she said. “It deprives women of their right to make a choice. They won’t make the decision, but the soulless law.
Write to Drew Hinshaw at [email protected]
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