Women’s rights activists in Poland splashed blood-red paint to protest a government plan to register every pregnancy in a national database, as parliament prepared to consider a new proposal to severely restrict abortion.
The campaigners are concerned that the database will allow Poland’s right-wing authorities to track whether pregnancies result in births and will serve as a potential weapon for prosecutions. The health minister recently refuted this, claiming that there is ‘no pregnancy registry’ and that the government was just transitioning from paper to digital files.
Poland’s already conservative abortion law was tightened last year and abortions are now only permitted in cases of rape or incest, or if the woman’s life or health is in danger.
In practise, Polish women travel to other European nations for abortions, particularly the Netherlands and Slovakia, and there are organisations that help them.
Parliament is set to consider a proposal for a total ban on abortion in Poland on Wednesday, including in cases of rape and threat to a woman’s health. The ‘stop abortion’ bill would identify a foetus as a child under the law, and if passed, campaigners who assist women in travelling to abortion facilities, as well as the women themselves, may face years in prison for murder. The penalty might range from five years to life in prison.
According to Irene Donadio of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, the law would also subject women who miscarried to criminal charges and prison sentences of up to five years. She described it as a ‘horror scenario for Polish women.’
She claims that in countries where abortion is considered murder, such as El Salvador, women who are hospitalised for miscarriages are sometimes suspected of having had an abortion, such as with an abortion pill and can be charged by prosecutors.