Poland’s abortion laws are already among the strictest in the European Union and a new measure to register all pregnancies in Poland will worsen the situation for women, critics say. Earlier this month, Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski signed an order that requires doctors to add more data to the country’s medical information system, including whether a person is pregnant.
A first draft of the ordinance had already surfaced in 2021, triggering fierce resistance. Opposition leader Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform party criticized the plan and said the ruling Law and Justice, or PiS, party was obsessed with control and coercion.
Another member of Tusk’s party, Tomasz Grodzki, who is also president of the Polish Senate, wondered aloud whether to compare the number of pregnancies with the number of births in order to track down illegal abortions.
As a result of such criticism, the project disappeared.
The measure comes into force in October
However, the idea did not work. The United Right coalition, which includes the PiS and the Solidarity Poland party and which has been in power since 2015, has not ruled out the idea.
Many Poles believe that the Catholic Church has too much influence on the government
The Catholic Church, which helped make the country’s abortion laws one of the most restrictive in Europe, has a lot of influence on these conservative parties. Currently, a woman in Poland can only have an abortion if her health or life is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.
The pregnancy registration order is now due to come into force in mid-June, two weeks after it was signed, but data transmission will only become mandatory from 1 October.
During a debate in Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, this week, Waldemar Kraska, deputy health minister and PiS member, defended the measure. “We do not establish a register of pregnancies,” he insisted. “We just want medical professionals to have the widest possible access to each patient’s data in order to provide them with the best medical help and to avoid any possible harm.” He also accused the opposition of “spreading lies”.
“I don’t think I have to explain to the doctors in this house how important it is to know whether a sick woman is pregnant or not,” he said, explaining that the medical register had been expanded to include information about implants, blood types and allergies too.
Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz even claimed that the register had been expanded based on recommendations from the European Commission. He said it would help better protect patients when traveling abroad.
Many Polish women think twice before having children
Politician Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak of the Lewica, or Left party, who called for the debate in the Sejm, said “a pregnancy registry in a country where abortion is almost completely banned is terrifying.”
She argued that a registry could be used for “good or bad purposes” but in the hands of a power that had made women’s lives hell, restricted the right to legal abortion and denied emergency contraception, such an instrument could prove problematic.
Barbara Nowacka of the Civic Platform pointed out that young Polish women did not want to have children anymore because they were afraid of the state. She said she thought the registry would likely be used as “an instrument of intimidation.”
The birth rate is steadily declining in Poland. Only 23,000 children were born in February this year, the lowest number in a single month since World War II.
Michal Gramatyka of the opposition Poland 2050 party said such a register might make sense in a “normal” country, but not in Poland. Referring to the increasing powers of the authorities in Poland, he posed a rhetorical question: “How can we believe that only doctors will have access to this information?”
In Thursday’s edition of the Left Liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily, an editorial by local author, Katarzyna Wezyk, tried to reassure by pointing out that even after the measure came into force, women would not be penalized by any law in the event of spontaneous abortion or artificial termination. of pregnancy.
“If this register was designed as an instrument of pressure, then it has no bite,” she writes. “Despite the efforts of anti-choice organizations, Poland is not a second El Salvador.”
A woman who loses her child faces up to 30 years in prison in this Central American state. In Poland, a woman who has an abortion cannot be punished under the laws in force. However, there are prison sentences of up to three years for those who perform an illegal abortion, assist in an illegal abortion, or persuade a woman to have an abortion.
This article has been translated from German.