In Poland, an activist sentenced for having assisted in an abortion

Justyna Wydrzynska, a Polish woman who provided abortion pills to a pregnant woman, was found “guilty of assisting” in the practice of voluntary termination of pregnancy by a court in Warsaw. She was inflicted “eight months of community service at the rate of 30 hours a month”, writes on Twitter the organization Abortion Dream Team, of which she is one of the co-founders.

“I don’t feel guilty, I don’t accept this judgment,” said Justyna Wydrzynska on leaving the court. The activist announced that she would appeal and that she would continue to help women. “Nothing has changed,” she added. The reasons for the court decision have not been made public.

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“Today’s sentencing constitutes a new chasm in the repression of reproductive rights in Poland: a setback for which women and girls – and those who defend their rights – are paying a heavy price”, comments Agnès Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, in a press release. “This case sets a dangerous precedent in Poland, where abortion is almost completely banned, and provides chilling insight into the consequences of such restrictive laws,” she continues.

Me Anna Bergiel, Justyna Wydrzynska’s lawyer, believes that the court wanted to send “a message to society that such behavior, such help, will not be tolerated.” For an association of ultra-Catholic jurists, “the accused, as well as the whole environment of the militants [du droit de pratiquer] abortion, promotes abortion, including [de] pharmacological abortion, for years, mocking the law in Poland.”

Read also, in 2022: In Poland, the virtual ban on abortion is taking its toll

“The judgment in the Justyna Wydrzynska case must therefore be considered as an important step towards the real respect of the right to life of unborn children in force in Poland”, insists Magdalena Majkowska, of Ordo Iuris, in a press release. The activist risked up to three years in prison for having “provided assistance” to this person who wanted an abortion and “having marketed drugs without authorization”, under Polish legislation – one of the strictest in Europe in this domain.

83.7% of Polish people

According to Natalia Broniarczyk, an Abortion Dream Team activist, the prosecutor requested a less severe sentence, “because it is an election year.” The majority of Poles are now in favor of liberalizing the law on abortion.

Also read: In Switzerland too, the right to abortion is going through turbulence

According to a poll carried out at the beginning of March, 83.7% of the Polish people are in favor of such liberalisation. Only 11.5% of respondents would like to maintain the current legal status. “It’s an absurd and shameful judgment,” wrote Polish MEP Robert Biedron on Twitter: “The Polish state has failed and the fanatics have won a new battle.”

In 2020, a woman in her 12th week of pregnancy and wanting to terminate it asked Justyna Wydrzynska for help. Previously, this woman wanted to go to a specialist abortion clinic in Germany, but her husband prevented her from leaving. While she was waiting at home for a package with the pills, it called the police who confiscated the medicine and opened an investigation. The woman subsequently miscarried.

Poland, a country with a Catholic tradition, already had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe when the Constitutional Court last year sided with the populist-nationalist government by declaring the “unconstitutional” abortions for fetal malformations. The Abortion Dream Team estimates that it has made 44,000 abortions possible in 2022, or 107 per day.

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