Editors’ note: The Polish parliament is currently debating a complete ban on abortion, backed by the Catholic church and the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. Poland already has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in Europe, forcing tens of thousands of women to undergo unsafe, illegal terminations every year, while less than 1,000 are granted legal abortions. Over the past week, thousands have protested the proposed ban across Poland as well as in London and other cities. One of the founders of Krytyka Polityczna explains why she’s taking part in the protests.
A few days ago a twelve-year old girl gave birth to a child in Kielce. The doctors are in a state of shock. Newspapers are in a state of shock. And I am pissed off. If the bill is passed, such stories will become common occurrence, completely normal, and no one should express surprise. In Polish schools there is no sex education and young girls do not have access to gynecological care. Even if there were a gynecological service for girls, but the law was introduced, girls would be forced to continue with their pregnancies, and if any of the doctors tried to save them at an early stage, they could be sentenced to a few years in prison. If girls miscarried, as they’re too young, would they face two years’ imprisonment or only a juvenile detention center? Only in this year, in one hospital in Wroclaw, fourteen girls have given birth to children, remarked Barbara Nowacka, leader of the Save Women initiative, in the Sejm. Is Poland supposed to be a country with a more restrictive anti-abortion law than Afghanistan or Iran?
A close friend of mine badly wanted to have a second child. Unfortunately the egg cell nested in the Fallopian tube. My friend spent five long weeks in hospital, where the doctors needed to induce a miscarriage through chemical means. She suffered badly, but not physically—only psychologically. Nowadays, terminating a pregnancy does not translate to tearing fetuses asunder, like in the brutal images of pro-lifers in front of the Sejm. It can be a lengthy medical process, unfortunately often times without providing psychological care to the woman.
If the proposed law were passed, doctors wouldn’t stand a chance to intervene in order to save life. They would have to wait until the fetus poses a threat to the woman’s life and ruptures the Fallopian tube. Her second child would never have been born and my friend could have died, the husband could have lost his wife, and the child could have lost her mother. I’m genuinely pissed! And terrified as well.
Another close friend of mine in the twelfth week of pregnancy received negative results of prenatal screening tests. She was very brave. If the proposed law were passed, she wouldn’t have been able to have amniocentesis (ATF). That would have been classified as invasive diagnostics as it involves a marginal risk of miscarriage. Thus she wouldn’t have found out whether her child would be born healthy or sick and what her life would look it would require.
I am a mother of fifteen-month old boy. At the age of thirty-seven, I gave birth to my child. Due to my age, I was provided with the opportunity to undergo free prenatal tests screening the fetus for Downs syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome. The first trimester was the most stressful stage of my pregnancy. Twice I ended up in hospital due to a risk of miscarriage, I stayed there bedridden for a month, waiting. After a genotyping test, twelve weeks pregnant, I left the doctor’ study crying. Those were tears of happiness that everything was fine. Had I not had the chance to undergo these tests, I don’t know if I would have plucked enough courage to get pregnant at that age and give birth. I have a lot of friends who have given birth at an even older age. I am furious that someone wants to deprive us of the chance at happiness.
The legislation proposal targets all women, their families and friends. It is not a pro-life draft. It’s a pro-death and no future bill.
On Thursday, while protesting, I met a lot of mothers with babies in buggies and gondolas, and toddlers and slightly older children in strollers, with pre-school kids marching holding hands. We were all protesting, because we understand a bit more and we have experienced more than men in suits currently debating in the Parliament. We’ve been through these medical procedures, the lengthy process of waiting and delivering the baby, breastfeeding and lulling to sleep. Were the bill passed, the parliament members would turn out to be people without elementary medical knowledge, without empathy, without mothers, wives and daughters. Or simply heartless people.
Dorota Głażewska is the Financial Director of the Stanisław Brzozowski Association and one of the founders of Krytyka Polityczna. Translation by Ola Holubowicz.